Gumm - Slogan Machine (Cover Artwork)


Slogan Machine (2023)

Convulse Records

At a time when hardcore is arguably more saleable than ever before, it’s no surprise that the scene has felt especially fertile of late. The issue with this however, is that often, when a scene gets some commercial love, there will inevitably be fame-chasers and johnny-come-latelies attached. But those familiar with the wider HC sphere might well argue that it is the hardest scene in the world in which to convince people you’re legit if you simply ain’t. One of the more baffling aspects of the recent uptick in interest in hardcore from the quasi-mainstream, is that many of those who have been most openly embraced (Knocked Loose, Code Orange, etc) are those with a sound more antithetical to typical mainstream interests. And when you consider that fact against the backdrop of the more commercially successful hardcore-adjacent bands of the early 2000’s (Basement, Thursday, Thrice, etc) it does make me wonder if there is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. Melodic yet rough, as much inspired by Converge as Superheaven, that kind of vibe.

That’s a rambling first paragraph even by my standards. But I am introducing you to many of the themes and questions that exist around this record as I listen to it. I’ll elaborate. Gumm are relatively new, insofar as this is their debut record and they’ve been around since 2018. But what they have done in this mission statement of a debut, is deliver an album that clocks in at well under 25 minutes. That does not mean this is all blistering pace and nihilism, though. There are proper songs. There are even periods that might be described as sparse. There is a huge dose of slacker alt-rock vibes, yet vocalist Drew Waldon never ratchets down his delivery in the interest of any vocals in the clean range. To be clear, I don’t lament the lack of clean vocals, but the musical canvas does feel like it could sustain a big chorus or two, here or there. It’s no bad thing, I guess it leaves that option open for the future, whether they wish to explore it or not.

Of that musical canvas, there is plenty to remark upon. There is an Arctic Monkeys style, single coil, stabby, lightly overdriven tone to the guitars. I wouldn’t go as far to describe the guitar lines as naive because I think it’s more the sound of a group of friends enjoying making music together. It’s uncomplicated at times, but then there are also passages where the guitars are allowed to ring out and it’s really hard not to be lost in a moment of revery; remembering the first times you played a guitar with your buds and it actually sounded like a band. Again that sounds like a criticism, but it really isn’t. Capturing that sound; and more importantly evoking that feeling is not easy and a truly wonderful thing to behold.

This is the bit where I summarise isn’t it? Ok. There are rock’n’roll songs that you’ll want to hear over a jukebox, there are dalliances with something altogether more heavy, there is a relatively disparate approach to guitar tone versus vocal style that put me briefly in mind of Is Survived By era Touché, and the dudes look like they’ve been plucked from a Turnstile show. It’s not a beatdown hardcore record at all. You can imagine Gumm sitting in a bill alongside Fiddlehead, Fury, Militarie Gun. You know, those kind of guys. The record isn’t going to completely overhaul the scene by any means, but I like what Gumm are doing. Not least of all because it sounds entirely like Gumm are doing what they love. There’s no question if they’re legit.