by Chris Hatch
There is – quite literally – a buzz about Gum Country’s debut album, Somewhere. From the opening fuzz of the title track’s synths, to the throaty purr of the album’s distorted, open-chorded guitars, the record hums along with the kind of soft, aural fizz that prickles the skin without piercing the surface. Its twelve tracks find lead singer, Courtney Garvin, hollowing out a place amongst the aching coolness of mid-90s slacker rock; her heavy-lidded vocal style taking on some of the qualities of The Smashing Pumpkins’ D’Arcy Wretzky – at times uncaringly apathetic, and at others taking on a tongue-in-cheek wryness.
On a first listen, the record falls pretty quickly into a mid-tempo pace, and spends most of its time there – occupying a space somewhere between the psychedelic-pop of The Dandy Warhols, and the lo-fi rock of bands like L7 and early Superchunk. Somewhere initially feels like it dwells too much on the lengthier side of the psych spectrum, and quite often neglects the poppier aspects that made the likes of The Dandy’s such a success – repeated listens, however, slowly reveal that Gum Country possess a magnetic hypnotism, and although the odd track would benefit from being trimmed back a little, there is something in the record that pulls you back for more.
There are rough-cut gems hidden throughout the album that take a while to find, but each subsequent spin leaves you seeking them out and eager for them to surface again; the wandering, little noiserock solo two-thirds into The Queen’s Rules, the pace-changing There’s A Crumb, whose intro feels like an abstract update on The Moldy Peaches’ Nothing Came Out that then lurches into a gritty, lo-fi chug, and the glorious Jungle Boy, the album’s poppiest and best track that has the scuzzy sparkle of Dinosaur Jr – it’s all alternate tunings, visceral guitar tones, and Frankie Cosmos’ sensibilities. All these moments create addictive hits of dynamism that would have otherwise left the album feeling flat and meandering.
Somewhere is an album that takes a few listens to properly untangle. Its buzzing, alt-rock vibe, intoxicating guitar tones, and everyday lyrics catch the attention, and its production has the upfront feel of an Albini record, without any of the associated testosterone-fuelled harshness. The record as a whole, however, is lacking a couple of stand out points, and single-worthy songs – as such it has to work hard to leave its mark. Gum Country, in a way, are like an old band t-shirt, a comfortable, worn-out pair of jeans, a hairstyle that’s teetering on the brink of being both in and out of fashion – they fill a 90s shaped hole of nostalgia that’s really too good to be classed as a guilty pleasure. So pull on your Lemonheads tee, wheel out your battered, old skateboard, and load a Linklater film into the VHS – you can’t live in the past, but sometimes it feels good to visit.
Secret Meeting score: 77
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