Gum Takes Tooth make their intentions clear from The Arrow's first track. Heavy modulation shakes the music loose from itself. Guitar distortion pushes the sound into frailty rather than power. A discomforting feeling announces that everything could, at any point, fall apart.
This unique and engaging sound is The Arrow's most appealing element. Composition on this album, by contrast, seems to pilfer from a patchwork of influences. Its title track is the most shameless example. The crushing repetition of Swans' 'Mother of the World', or My Bloody Valentine's 'Nothing Is' is grasped at. But the track is gutless, sinking without leaving a ripple.
Gum Takes Tooth would no doubt enjoy comparisons to such extreme or experimental acts. Their work, though, is closer to The 1975's A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships. Inhuman by design, apocalyptic yet triumphant, eclectic but not messy. It’s a half-hearted bid for esoteric beauty — too timid to sever ties from more broadly accepted modes of expression.
'Borrowed Lies' is a mid-album highlight which incorporates a folk-like vocal melody. Gentility and beauty supplant the band's self-seriousness. It's a welcome break — and a few more moments like this could have worked wonders for the album.
As it stands, The Arrow is grandiose, but outstripped by its own ambition. It punches, but punches like a kid. And even its fantastic, medley-like final track, House Built of Fire, can't quite leave the bruise they want it to.
For fans of Crystal Castles, Savages and GNOD. The Arrow is available for streaming and purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe