On Currents, Tame Impala did away with their nimble guitar riffs in favor of exclusively bass acoustics padded with synth melodies and drum kits, creating a divide amongst those who herald the LP as the band’s best work to date and those who are lukewarm to what they consider a mild disappointment. Consequently, Tame Impala’s reception has been more divided this year than any other. These observations are not intended to call the unanimity of the praise Currents has received into question, but to note that with any change in creative direction and the expansion of an artist’s discography, new material inevitably differentiates fans as either for or against an artist’s new sound.
Three LPs, a significant style change, and several offshoot ventures have warranted enough material for the Tame Impala fan base to be classified in a few different ways: fans of the old, fans of the new, fans that are completely bought in, and fans devoted enough to have an opinion on every Tame Impala side project (of which there are plenty). The release of Glamorous Damage by Tame Impala multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson under the moniker GUM now furthers the criteria for die-hard Tame Impala fandom while simultaneously offering glimpses of the band’s forgone style.
Glamorous Damage is an amalgam of synth pop (think backing tracks to establishing shots of an '80s coming of age film), stadium power pop, and electronic funk. The album is mostly an up-tempo extension of the sounds explored on Currents with the occasional semblance of Lonerism melodies. Consider “Notorious Gold,” whose synth leads and power chord accents can be best described as a Lonerism instrumental at a Currents pace. If you were wondering where Tame Impala’s signature psychedelic guitars went, Jay Watson hid them on this album.
The instrumental production is noteworthy. Consecutive tracks “Elafonissi Blue” and “Television Sick” impress with the clarity of their layered synths, percussions, and guitar riffs. The delayed and distorted vocals on these songs are vocal highlights of the album that are, unfortunately, not replicated elsewhere. The low volume of the vocals throughout this album, in addition to the distortion and delay, are both an obvious guise for Watson’s limited vocal capabilities and an acknowledgement that Watson cannot compete with Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker as a vocalist. The underwhelming vocals make the album sound as if it were the product of the theoretical situation in which Kevin Parker dies, but Tame Impala decides to keep going in his memory.
For an album with the word “glamor” in its title and quintessentially glam rock album art, Glamorous Damage takes glam rock as more of a light suggestion than an outright influence. Had Watson incorporated glam rock’s distinctive grit into this project, it may have avoided the decline in the instrumental appeal evident in the album’s deeper cuts and fared better at sustaining listeners’ interest. While Glamorous Damage can commandingly excite a dancefloor at its funkiest moments, its inconsistency and lackluster vocals ultimately diminish it to a forgettable experience.