Glamorous Damage reminds me of the soundtrack to a retro futurist film about an unlikely hero. He’s flung into situations he’s not quite sure how to navigate, but at the end of the day he makes it home. It could be argued that GUM, aka Jay Watson, could indeed be this hero. Integral in the rise of Pond and Tame Impala, always there right behind his mates, Watson is navigating the fields of fame and fortune in the music industry, and GUM is his solace; his individual expression.
He lays his cards on the table, he’s not hiding his influences or inspirations. In fact, he is very much highlighting what he’s into and what he’s trying to do or sound like. There is no pretentious attitude or hiding: this is Watson just trying something different on for size, and absolutely owning it. He traverses the worlds of Bowie, Prince, Eno or even more recently Todd Terje, and steps out as his own laser-firing, synth-obsessed, retro futurist self – and the results are out of this world.
Watson needs you to know about his love of all things synth related, Sci-fi and the future with Glamorous Damage. He’s laying it all out there, and he’s embracing his love of weird and whacky pop. From the jabby grooves of the opener, to the passionate, explosive ballad of Notorious Gold; the lead single Anesthetised Lesson in all its groovy glory, to the dramatic, Flash Gordon-esque Elafonissi Blue; Glamorous Damage is a polished but gritty, well constructed but DIY, exhilarating and immersive album that you can’t help but get lost in. Funk and disco stylings are on full display as well. Anesthetised Lesson is enough to get anyone’s bass face going, whilst the beat driven R.Y.K, although experimental and unassuming, narrows in on an insatiable groove I can’t get enough of.
Watson’s vocals, though drenched in effects, show a personable side to him that has not been seen yet. His lyrics, although he may insist are very deliberate and intentional, have to come from somewhere. Considering he is behind literally every element of this record, all the way to the producing and engineering of it, it really is Watson who is on full display here. Building upon what he’s already laid down in his debut, Delorean Highway, but thrusting it even further into the synth galaxy, Watson himself may not realise just how great this album is.
Although the leading single and Elafonissi Blue are two of my personal favourites, it would be hard to go past the two clear standouts of the record. Science Fiction sounds like the song that plays in the final scene of the aforementioned movie; triumphant, extravagant, supercharged and the most intergalactic of all the tracks. It’s 4 minutes of incredibly solid songwriting, complete with Bowie-esque vocals and sits somewhere between love ballad and all-out glam rock. Yet, such is the complexity of this record that it stands at a tie with the album’s closing track, Carnavorn, named after the city in Watson’s native Western Australia. Atmospheric in nature, it sounds like the moment after you’ve taken off in a plane and you level out above the clouds; the album before it, the propulsion whilst you’re strapped in and a little on the edge of your seat, only to finally break through and be on top of the world.
I wouldn’t call myself a “science fiction” fan by any stretch of the imagination, but if sci-fi movies had GUM’s Glamorous Damage as their soundtrack, I may just change my mind. Actually, if this was the soundtrack to anything I would probably enjoy it. I’ve been a Tame Impala fan since I was 15, a POND fan since I was 18, and a GUM fan admittedly only since last year when I was 21. However, with a record like Glamorous Damage, it’s now no question that I will be a GUM fan for a long, long time to come.