Jay Watson certainly doesn’t take a break. When’s he’s not being a full time member of member of both Tame Impala and POND, or even producing music, he somehow finds time to write songs for his own project, GUM. Releasing his debut solo album ‘Delorean Highway’ way back in 2014, he’s since dropped 3 other albums that ride the spectral wave of psych rock, funk, soul and electronic music. The latest being 2018’s ‘The Underdog’ which saw Watson get his most introspective. If you’ve ever listened to a GUM album after listening to a POND album it’s clear to hear what influence Watson brings to the table, from his falsetto melodies to prog-rock influenced riffs.
On ‘Out In The World’ Watson takes it back to those early days of ‘Delorean Highway’ with more folk inspired guitar passages whilst still keeping his colourful palette of swirling synthesisers throughout. He’s also put together some of his most prog inspired psych bangers of his catalogue. The track ‘Don’t Let It Go Out’ moves from folk guitar leads and heavy electronic funk bass lines to an all out psych rager. As the synthesisers swirl the heavy driving beat kicks in to lead into a euphoric chorus line, powered by sailing synth lines and dynamic harmonies. This hard hitting sound and groove has been found before on occasional moments on POND and GUM albums but never in this plentitude. Title track ‘Out In The World’ and ‘Many Tears To Cry’ also build on this sound and bring out some of Watson’s most heartfelt and sonically emotional tracks to date. With the latter being dowsed in 70’s rock nostalgia through its swaying harmonies and guitar slides. Although on closer ‘You Make Your Own Luck’ the song builds through mellotron piano lines, crooning vocal lines and descending melodies all to what feels like should be a big pay off. But instead it all fades and is brought back into a yacht-rock piano riff and some scatty jazz vocals that feels jarring and a bit of an underwhelming finish to an album of big moments.
Watson doesn’t just stick to one style though, as there’s also call backs to some of the more left-field early POND and GUM works. Like on ‘Alphabet Soup’ with its heavily phased vocals and and a groovy bass line that wouldn’t feel out of place on Watson’s sophomore album ‘Glamorous Damage’. The synth line and vocal melody move along side each like a ‘Mind Fuzz’ era King Gizzard song, and although it’s not the most expansive song on the album it places like a signature brush stroke of a GUM album. There’s also the almost trap sounding beat of ‘Airwalkin’ which might have one the hardest grooves of any GUM song to date. And through whichever style or sonic avenues Watson chooses the production remains consistently vibrant and rich wether it be through the layers of synths the are ever present or the punchy bass lines of ‘Weightless In L.A.’. Not only does Watson expand on his signature style but allows it to flourish, whilst taking some hints from a certain Kevin Parker as he stacks huge expanses of sound on top of each other; something his bandmate has become notorious for.
I also feel inclined to mention the ‘phaser hits’ that appear throughout, a particular production favourite of Watson’s. And on this outing I counted around 10 different instances of the effect being used within this album, which at points became slightly obnoxious with their repetition. There are also a couple of songs that suffer from this repetition and lack of movement. ‘The Thrill Of Doing It Right’ and ‘Low To Low’ start with an idea or melody and seem to carry it through the whole way of the song. There are instances on both where they find a groove and have their big explosive moments but don’t offer the progression or songwriting grandeur of some of their counterparts.
It’s definitely impressive to think what Jay Watson has accomplished in his career already at 3o. Being part of two of the biggest psych-rock acts of the last 10 years, whilst not being the poster-boy for either, his influence has been felt throughout the modern pysch scene. In 2018 he self proclaimed himself as ‘The Underdog’ but now he’s proven that maybe the spotlights ready for him as he delivers the songs to prove it.