GUM, the solo project of Tame Impala touring member and POND’s Jay Watson continues his foray into the cosmos with his fourth album, The Underdog.
Oh, boy! Be ready to groove, nod and tap along to the effortlessly funky vibes emitted from GUM’s factory of freaky floor-fillers. It’s no surprise to hear Watson making a noticeable shift to synth-heavy disco on The Underdog. GUM’s previous record, the ‘80s synth-pop tinged Flash In The Pan, hinted at a more electronic influence. The psych-pop genius has always strongly dabbled with synths, but on The Underdog, GUM’s beats are mechanical and rhythmic, closely resembling disco and house.
One of two lead singles, ‘S.I.A’ prepared GUM fanatics for what was to dominate The Underdog. The track transcends listeners from the anthemic psych of ‘The Underdog’ to a dirty dancefloor in a small, dark club. For the psych lovers, there’s still plenty on offer, like ‘The Blue Marble’, the best track on The Underdog. Watson forgets his underdog anxieties and remembers he is all but an insignificant body on ‘The Blue Marble’ we call Earth: “And when the worlds align/You’ll be reminded that you’ll be fine on your own/On the mote of dust in a sunbeam.”
The shift in dynamic is warmly welcomed. GUM could have stuck to his guns and churned out another collection of electronic-infused psych-pop tunes, but the change revitalises two sounds that have been continuously tapped – disco and psych.
I’m really clutching at straws here. There’s not much to dislike about The Underdog. However, ‘Couldn’t See Past My Ego’ provides a divisive moment on the album. With its jarring introduction and overly-bouncy singalong breakdown, the song is the least likeable on The Underdog.
But Watson sings the most valuable lyrics on ‘Couldn’t See Past My Ego’. While most of The Underdog explores Watson’s journey as an underdog and his efforts to escape the mould, ‘Couldn’t See Past My Ego’ represents his constant battle to believe in the underdog – himself.
Watson describes The Underdog as “evoking that sensation of triumph and that weird parallel universe feeling you get when the person that’s not supposed to win, does.” Watson’s “got the fear,” but there’s no need. The exploration into an alternate GUM universe is one which glistens and shines with disco balls, oscillating synths and bobbing rhythms.
Over Watson’s three previous albums – 2014’s Delorean Highway, 2015’s Glamorous Damage and 2016’s Flash In The Pan – GUM has continuously progressed into a more electronic-influenced project. Now, with The Underdog, it’s Watson’s most ambitious record, with genuine dancefloor heat like the robotically constructed album closer ‘The Fear’. It’s a glorious slip from the much-explored psych-pop sound – which is still expertly covered by Watson on The Underdog – to filthy tunes you’ll find in a sweaty club at 3 A.M.
The Underdog is a winner.
‘The Blue Marble’, ‘After All (From The Sun)’ and ‘S.I.A’