Things get cracking with the single 'Shot Shot', a rumbling two chord knockabout that...
Chris Jones 2002
Gomez have in the last three years managed to stay ahead of the pack by dint of their very unclassifiable nature. A few sad hacks have labelled them 'progressive' for the simple crime of daring to change time signatures mid-song once in a while and displaying a (healthy) propensity for multi-instrumentalism. Yet despite such slurs here they are with their third album proper. Yes, the difficult third album, but is three the magic number?
Things get cracking with the single "Shot Shot", a rumbling two chord knockabout that departs almost as soon as it arrives leaving you breathless and expectant. Unfortunately that's exactly how you remain until the end of the album. Two and a half years down the line from Liquid Skin the sound is fuller. Headphone-level examination reveals plenty under the bonnet; bubbling electronics, grainy loops (check the wonderful harp sample on "Rex Kramer") and a lusher harmonic sense all point to a painstaking attention to production details, and herein lies the problem. Rough and ready experimentation has been replaced by smoother and safer approaches. The song-structure, while tighter, never throws up enough new surprises to make this anything other than "the new Gomez album".
Wonderful melodies abound (the title track is heart-stoppingly gorgeous; all Nick Drake meets Portishead), yet you long for the by-numbers grooviness of tracks like "Ping One Down" and "Army Dub" to somehow break out and grab your attention. Gomez lyrics, like their titles, always had an air of private stoner jokes that exclude outside probing and it's one bad habit they've failed to break. "Mile End" is one particular offender while with "Detroit Swing 66", they've managed to do what was previously unthinkable: make an irritating and trite noise. It all feels too familiar.
This is by no means a bad album. Previous efforts have merely raised our expectations so high as to always make this a tricky number to pull off. New elements such as the meckanische electronics point to great things to come, and the closer "Ballad Of Nice And Easy " is a joyous slice of Allman Brothers-styled southern rock. Also Ben Otterwell's voice is always going to be a thing of beauty; an instrument that bears the weight of years yet to be experienced. Maybe too long was taken over this album. Gomez have not only given us more of the same but seem to have given us more of a work in progress and, while ability is incredibly high, the results often fall short of the promise. Just don't give up on them yet.