The Underdog by GUM

Release date: April 6, 2018
Label: Spinning Top Music

Ok, so you are at the same time in two of the currently most sought for Australian psych bands (Tame Impala and Pond) and you still find the ideas and time to release music on your own? Great, you either have to be limitlessly prolific (good or bad) or are under a shadow of the other people in those bands.

On the evidence of The Underdog, his fourth album as GUM, with Jay Watson on the surface it seems to be a bit of both – he certainly is prolific, and could possibly be under the shadow of say, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. That still does not answer the question whether his music is any good or is it just an ego trip.

The thing with ego trip though should be dismissed right off, although, even if it was, it can be substantiated if what he comes up with is worth listening to. Throughout the four albums he has come up with so far, Watson seems to be having fun with being, well, the underdog. He obviously consciously puts himself in that position, presuming that many listeners will think exactly that of him and his musical excursions outside two currently quite successful bands.

Whatever his real input in Tame Impala and Pond is, it certainly exists because you can certainly hear traces throughout _The Underdog_. But what he does here is expand on these ideas here. In a way, it is some sort of (the dreaded) concept album. As he puts it the album is “the soundtrack to a day in the life of GUM. Starting before going out at night, full of spirit and euphoria and feeling like it’s me against the world, before crashing and waking up riddled with anxiety and panic, only to build myself up to do it all again.”

Fortunately, the damn thing works. Watson is able to pull in all the psych elements he is working on elsewhere (‘Serotonin’ ‘After All (From The Sun’), but is able to (successfully) go into other directions like touches of soul (the title track), R&B (‘The Blue Marble’), or synth excursions and beats (‘Trying My Best’) all that with quite a personal touch, making, um, the concept work.

I guess, Watson is looking for ways to have his music appreciated as it is – his own and not just as some sort of a back up to Tame Impala or Pond, and with The Underdog he is certainly on the way not to be one. Underdog, that is.

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