GUM: Glamorous Damage

Tame Impala guy Jay Watson tries to deepen the sunny psych-pop he's known for, but are you prepared to go all the way with him?

Tame Impala should really be thought of as an umbrella group or musical collective instead of a band, because it’s becoming problematic to refer to the output of every band member who isn’t Kevin Parker as a Tame side project. Multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson, also of Pond fame, has risen again from this almost predictably talented pool of space rockers and psych dreamers on his sophomore album Glamorous Damage, a grandiose synth-splosion that fades in and out of a futuristic sonic adventure.

While Watson incorporated synths into his 2014 debut Delorean Highway, they never demanded your attention quite like they do on Glamorous Damage; there’s barely a guitar to be heard, or a lyric either. Watson’s voice echoes through a pixelated forest of lush electronic greenery. At times it feels structureless, like waves of synths chords pummelling you into glam oblivion as if the album title were meant to be interpreted literally. I’m still not sure if this works in the albums favour, the sound can be one-dimensional in its reliance on electronic keys for both the rhythm and melody sections.

That doesn’t discount Watson’s ear for a hook, with lead single Anaesthetised Lesson being case in point, as well as definitely the most fully-realised track on the album. Balancing a swaggering hook and samples of futuristic bric-a-brac with a clean vocal melody with just enough manipulation to segment bridge and chorus, the lead single hits the mark where other attempts miss. The repetitive drone on Elafonissi Blue I’m not so sold on, the melodies bleed into each other and my interest plateaus. It picks up again on the following track Television Sick, which is a good deal shorter and full of warped vocal snippets interspersed with guitar and synth licks as Watson wags his finger at humans for their love of the talking box.

Glamorous Damage is, at its best, a punchy synth vehicle for Watson’s obvious breadth of talent, but at times it veers off course and sounds like robot waffle. Either way your reception of this album will depend on your tolerance for extended space vacuum outros and synth supanovas. It's understandable that producers of summery psych-pop get bored and want to show us something different, mind expanding, but there's not always a guarantee that you'll like what you find, when you discover how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

- Grace Pashley.

Album Details

Album Title: Glamorous Damage
Artist: GUM
Record Label: (Spinning Top)