Album Review: GUM – Out In The World

[Spinning Top; 2020]

Creating an album while lying low in the shadows of Tame Impala and Pond can never be easy. Jay Watson has “not had a day job for almost a decade”, owing to Kevin Parker’s rise to superstardom and to a lesser extent his participation in Pond. In the small chunks of free time he has, Watson has created Out In The World, his fifth full length release as GUM, and fourth since Tame Impala’s 2015 record Currents – which is an impressive feat in itself. Perhaps spending one day in the studio and the next playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Coachella can inspire an internal creative process that we never knew of.

Either way, on his new record GUM doesn’t deviate from the tried and tested ingredients of psychedelic 70s rock and the trusted phaser of his past LPs. Out In The World is his most ambitious and wide ranging album, featuring sounds that flip from dance pop to downbeat ballads.

Opening track “Weightless in LA” is simply a frictionless soft rock tune, never really building upon itself, meaning the record gets off to a slow start. The following “Airwalkin’” is a far more upbeat danceable track, combining an acid house bass with layers of synths to create one of the best songs on the record. 

The expansive, dreamy production of the title track and lead single is also brilliant; boasting an infectious chorus and reverb-soaked guitars, it’s a song which sits almost too perfectly in an 80s summer indie playlist. The lyrics about wanting to give up and never talk to anyone ever again after a trying situation, but in the end being willing to press on, are also attributable to the current global situation. The second single “Don’t Let It Go Out” contains very similar arpeggiated 12 string guitars to the latter tune and builds to a carefully engineered emphatic conclusion; it’s one of the most complete moments on the record.

At times, the Tame Impala and Pond influences become impossible to overlook. The resounding horn riff coupled with heavily-phased loops on “The Thrill of Doing It Right” sound like the meagre younger brother to the Currents blockbuster “Let It Happen”. “Weightless in LA” and the hazy bedroom pop-ish ballad of “Many Tears to Cry” could easily be mistaken for the tune of Pond’s 2015 hit “Waiting Around For Grace”. 

Out In The World ends with the bloated “You Make Your Own Luck”. The track’s transition from a piece of downbeat psychedelic rock to a jazzy afrobeat is pretty awkward, and begs the question what encouraged Jay to include this second section in the first place?

The fluctuating nature of Out In The World is dissimilar to the logically-placed tracks GUM’s 2018 project The Underdog. Opening track “Weightless in LA” and the following “Airwalkin’” do not seam together neatly, and this can be said time and time again throughout the record. It’s as though Jay is playfully toying around with genres without building a fully cohesive record. There are plenty of lovely moments on this LP, but without a clear structure it never truly acts as one.