Somehow adding electronic music elements to rock music rarely works for me. It all comes out disco retreads, limp moaning or ridiculous dance anthems. Gumshen seem to have tapped into whatever dark valley in my brain these prejudices come from and tossed some flashing lights and glitter all over the place. I don’t feel insulted, bored or stuck in a time warp listening to DigiBites. It’s fresh and poppy and maybe just a little proggy.Opening track, “A Scene Like That” is a fine introduction to Gumshen’s direction, and a fine song about making an ass of yourself in the club. Everyone party needs a fuckup, and Gumshen is willing to put that fuckup on blast. It’s essentially danceable without feeling stupid or slavish. So much dance music feels like it’s chained to a beat that fucked up kids on molly can dance to. It ceases to make sense or be interesting when you aren’t sucking on a pacifier surrounded by blinking lights. Gumshen has a worthwhile singer and lyrics worth looking up.
There are times when certain sounds feel like they’ve been left on autopilot. Gumshen are clearly skilled musicians, but maybe haven’t had time to explore the possibilities of synths completely yet. This saves them from making naive but enthusiastic mistakes, but also keeps them from kicking down the doors of the sonic future. It’s never enough to kill any particular song. Something else is always going on, but considering how good DigiBites is one can’t help but see that it could have been a bit better.
Gumshen, in the end, manages to sound retro and timeless without sounding reheated. There are modern elements and elements that remind us of previous eras of greatness, but most of this wouldn’t actually fly in the eighties or nineties. It calls up those eras, but listened to side by side the modern twists are as apparent as age lines on a supermodel’s face. Which isn’t to call those lines imperfections, but signs of maturing. The eyes are darkened by age, but not hardened by cynicism, to stretch a metaphor. It’s refreshing and fun and bouncy and modern without feeling like it’ll be dated in six months. It doesn’t feel compressed or flat. It’s a damn good record.