GUM, the solo project of Jay Watson, the eccentric multi-instrumentalist of Pond and Tame Impala, is back with Flash in the Pan. In his third full-length solo album in as many years, Watson is moving away from the safe psychedelic formula he’s used to and delving into more personal themes and influences, resulting in more freaky experiments of sombre electronics and funky disco sounds.
‘Gemini’, the first track written for the album, reflects GUM’s duality of sounds, flipping between echoey softness and punchy immediacy. It sets the tone well for the rest of the record, exciting, yet restrained in its more outgoing moments. It’s comfortably slow, often fading in and out, betraying the sense of urgency the album title might suggest.
On the more upbeat tracks, like ‘Deep Razz’, psychedelic motifs like a reversed guitar are blended with muffled autotuned verses, reminiscent of some of the stuff Julian Casablancas made with his side project The Voidz. Other tracks have a lo-fi, retro feel, ‘Deep Heat’ particularly sounds like a really dramatic level on an old Time Crisis game. ‘Ophelia’, with its booming keyboard riff, somehow sounds nostalgic and incredibly melancholy at once, making it one of the more distinctive and moving tracks on what can be at times, a slow, uneventful album.
On ‘Honey, Don’t Cry’, the album’s emotional peak, he reassures the listener “I’m tellin you it’s gonna get better” over warbly keyboards and 60s pop style backing melodies. It’s here where it becomes apparent just how at home he is in the calmer moments, just as he’s proved on ‘Delorean Highway’ or ‘She Never Made It To Tell’ before.
While some tracks like ‘Rares’ or fillers like ‘Flash in Japan’ may seem a little mediocre, Flash in the Pan shows the unfiltered, unforced and deeply authentic side to GUM. It may lack the boldness of the previous two records or the expansive absurdity of Pond’s, but it ultimately feels more genuine and heartfelt. It comes across as a much more of an introspective outlet than before, more of an opportunity to be himself, and proves just how valuable he can be in the diverse and prolific Tame Impala family tree.