Gomez Split The Difference Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

'Sweet Virginia' demonstrates how the band have gone back to the basics of how to...

Chris Jones 2002

Five years after that worryingly early Mercury victory (for best album) Gomez have had their share of knocks.

For a start, no one likes precociousness, and a young, student band that seemed so steeped in blues lore and with a singer (Ben Otewell) whose voice belied his tender years, were always going to be swimming against the tide. Their tricky time signatures (courtesy of powerhouse Olly Peacock - on rattling good form here), mastery of their instruments and the fine art of layering them, was always liable to set them apart from their less imaginative peers. Yet they fell prey to classic third album syndrome, with In Our Gun emerging as an unsatisfying collection of styles that signalled a band who'd become lost in the minutiae.

18 months locked in their studio with producer Tchad Blake has had the required effect. The songs return and gone is the half-baked amalgamation of in-jokes and dubwise meanderings. Split The Difference rocks, and rocks hard and tender...

This isn't to say that the Southport school chums have forsaken their wonderful bag of tricks. Let's check them off: Firstly, Gomez have never tired of the cranked up intro with Otewell blaring a single note like a possessed foghorn over the top. Sure enough "Where Ya Going", does just that. Next up is the aforementioned rhythmic intricacy and playfulness. Check ("Me You and Everybody" - which veers dangerously close to Radiohead-style prog). And lastly there's the ability to turn their hands to tunes that would break even Margaret Thatcher's heart. Yup; all present and correct in "There It Was" and the stand-out track "Sweet Virginia".

The latter demonstrates how the band have overcome creative ennui by going back to the basics of how to write sensitive, grown-up songs and then backing them up with some of the best ensemble playing they've committed to tape yet. The vocal harmonies alone are nape-tingling in the extreme.

Add to the mix the usual dollop of humour (just who is being dissed in "Chicken Out"?), and only one track that coasts (the standard-Gomez-blues shout-by-numbers "Meet Me In The City"), and you've got one of the finest releases of the year so far. If you were one of those people who wrote them off two years ago, it's time to get listening again...

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