Gum Country describe themselves as “harsh twee”, a description that may on the surface sound ridiculous. But upon listening to their debut record, you realise how appropriate it is, as the duo of Courtney Gavin (The Courtneys) and Connor Mayer frequently mix breezy C86-style melodies with fuzzed-out shoegaze-type guitar.
Even when vocalist/guitarist Gavin turns up the guitars, though, the songs rarely sound abrasive. The mood on the album seems almost defiantly upbeat. It simply beams with positive, sunny vibes. This atmosphere makes it all the more surprising when the lyrics turn more acerbic or introspective.
For the most part, though, the lyrical focus is more everyday, ranging from video games to gardening to tennis. Sometimes this obsession with the minutiae of everyday living comes off as endearing. Other times not so much. A good example of when it is more on the cringey side is Tennis (I Feel Ok), a song that is less “harsh twee” and more “twee twee”. The song’s repeated chorus of “Why don’t we go down to the court?” coming over as every bit as toe-curling as anything the Wimbledon crowd have come up with over the years. It is only made more annoying by being accompanied by squelchy Casio-style keyboards – a mixture that pushes the twee levels through the roof.
On the flip side, the equally twee Talking To My Plants is rather wonderful. Its repeated refrain of “I’m talking to my plants / Or are they talking to me?” gives the song a pleasingly demented air to it. You could argue there is a certain level of eye-roll worthy hipster irony in the lyrical choices, but enough of it feels authentically quirky that the pair manage to get away with it.
So lyrically, the record may not be flawless. In terms of instrumentation, both Gavin and Mayer are excellent. You just need to listen to Gavin’s infectious jangly riff on I Don’t Stay Up or Mayer’s gnarly drumming on Jungle Boy for evidence.
In fact, musically over the twelve tracks, there is little wrong here at all. Except for the aforementioned tennis song, there are no real duds and a few that you could easily see becoming indie anthems like the razor-sharp opening title track where the pair show off their more raucous side.
If there is a drawback to this set of songs, it is that the duo’s influences don’t so much bleed through as walk up and lamp you square on the jaw. There is a big dollop of Stereolab here and a fistful of The Breeders amidst numerous other allusions to indie acts of the late 80s/early 90s. Given this, the LP can feel a bit like a time-capsule as you double-check to see it is not a lost record from 1991.
In the end, Somewhere lacks the distinctive character of its own to be excellent. But it is still a fun, uplifting effort, which is sure to please indie nostalgists.