Out in the World
GUM, aka Jay Watson of Tame Impala and POND fame, has carved his own little niche in the shadow of his greater-known Perth counterparts. This is a matter of course when it comes to Tame Impala – now one of the biggest bands in the world – but lesser known needn’t mean worse in GUM’s instance, whose solo output has been consistently great. Out in the World offers a wide-ranging selection of mood experiments that are not only interesting but also double as great pop songs.
The name of the game here is variety and creative production work. Watson is a gifted producer, and instead of the Kevin Parker’s sleek perfectionism he favours a playful approach that tempers the grandeur with more lo-fi and crustier tones. Think Tame Impala crossed with King Gizzard and you get an approximation.
Opener Weightless in LA is, indeed, a floaty number that’s characterised by a series of jarring phaser shifts. Airwalkin’ is a lean, mean funk number and one of the best singles of the year. Deep cut Low to Low is another great dance number, this time borrowing from the bossa nova playbook and adding a heavy dose of synth magic. The title track borrows snatches from Eleanor Rigby but deviates enough to be a memorable electronic pop number in its own right, sounding like a prime era Empire of the Sun cut. Many Tears to Cry has an awkward verse but is a successful ballad on the whole thanks to its lush strings and wordless, hummed melodies.
There’s no weak tracks, but the album does lose steam in its latter half due to some comparative throwaways. The Thrill of Doing It Right leans on muscular drums and horn blares but has no chorus to latch onto, while Down the Dream meanders its way to nowhere. Alphabet Soup is a King Gizzard imitation that doesn’t live up to the source material, and closing ballad You Make Your Own Luck gets by on being a multi-part suite but none of its individual parts are particularly compelling.
Overall this is a high value grab-bag of tunes, none substantial in their own right but each with something to offer. A great release that should get GUM some well-deserved global traction.