In Review: Gum Country - Somewhere
There is a definite influx of indie music being released that tackles everyday life in a sincere-yet-grounded tone across all multitudes of different sub-genres. Canadian-turned-LA surf rockers Gum Country are the latest group looking to present their views on life, wrapping their take on the mundanity of normalcy in a shimmering parcel laden with a surprising and welcome variety in production and instrumental techniques.
Lead single and album opener ‘Somewhere’ is a mammoth-sized track sparkling with reverb and shimmering riffs. It’s a song that details a big change – leaving a sense of ennui in a past life as singer Courtney Garvin (formerly of The Courtneys) steps into the sun amidst a flurry of crashing rhythm guitars, dazzling riffs and prancing, understated keys. Whilst it may be trying too hard to be an unbridled epic in its optimistic five-minute runtime, it’s an effective starting point, setting a tone of dissatisfied irreverence and optimism for new experiences throughout the ensuing album.
The duo does a great job of running through as many variations that fall under the indie/surf umbrella on Somewhere. Standout-track ‘The Queen Rules’ is a fantastic, bite-sized slice of throwback pop-rock driven by infectious guitar solos and bouncing basslines. It’s sure to be a live favourite once gigs happen again and would get my vote for the next single release from the album. There’s an infectious positivity to this song that rears its head elsewhere on the record – second single ‘Tennis’ is powered via a nostalgia-laden video game aesthetic, and the 80’s-style cosmic synths of ‘Brain Song’ provide foot-pounding energy, backed with crunchy, distorted guitars.
You’ll find plenty of post-punk and thrashier moments on the album too. ‘It Lives It Breeds It Feeds’ is one of the heavier affairs on the album, revolving around a biting bassline and screeching guitar. ‘Talking To My Plants’ treats us to a guitar and synth duel within a maelstrom of distortion, whilst album-closer ‘Waterfall’s softer verses build into a call and response chorus before finishing with a huge crescendo of aggressive guitars that are sure to close any future gigs the band hold.
The album’s obsession with irreverence can work against it. Lyrically, though sincere the album errs too often on the side of simplicity, with songs like ‘There’s a Crumb’ and ‘Whoa Oh’ offering little in terms of new ideas. The unassuming nature of delivery is part of the sincerity that constitutes the appeal of Garvin’s song-writing but isn’t always successful. The runtime is affected by this too – the record shines best on the shorter, punchy tracks, but feels laborious on the longer songs like ‘Pills’.
Somewhere is an enjoyable, varied listen overall. Loaded with songs that seem tailor-made for dances in smoky, intimate venues and laden with a tone that will likely resonate with a post-COVID-19 audience bored of a monotonous lifestyle, the record is bursting with an infectious energy that evokes excitement at the prospect of future releases from the duo.