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Gomez – A New Tide

2009-07-02 10:05
A New Tide
But so what? If you love Gomez, you'll lap it all up, like I did.

While A New Tide is not quite as immediately catchy and consistent as Bring it On (1998) or as sexily morbid as How We Operate (2006), nor as new in terms of sound as the title implies, it's both a keeper and a grower. It's more coherent than Split the Difference (2004) and more stylish and varied in its production than the now-retro Liquid Skin(1999).

A New Tide pops out a few of Ben Ottowell's signature finger-snappy numbers like the opener "Mix", but specialises in more chilled, thoughtful material on offer from Ian Ball. Although they've always been more of an album band (most of their singles never rise above double figures on the Billboard charts) they write very memorable songs… But tricky ones, with key changes, tempo variations, textural tones and harmonic tensions - and their signature understanding of the importance of pure silence.

And so the contradictions keep flowing.

Gomez have always played it their own way. They produce an album every few years, switching record companies or ditching distributors when anyone gives them shit about their attitudes. And just when you think you've pinned down their influences with some smartarse music critic definition like "If the Beatles played country" (which thanks to the Beatles' vastly varying catalogue and legacy is a cop-out anyhow) the velvet chainsaw of their combined vocals (Ian Ball’s accent unmistakeably at the forefront) cuts through your conceit and leaves you road-tripping on the heady should-be-radio-hit off the album, free-running "Airstream Driver".

And just as you’re about to call them something like "a genre unto themselves", the bastards playfully toss in a guitar lick that references "Come Together". Damn! What is this? Popular music for snobs like Steely Dan fans? Indie-Celtic? A charlatan's shag-music? Blues-rock for people with more than three chords and the truth to offer?

Oh, who cares. It sounds good! And I quit.

Gomez has never been great at album art, but A New Tide is a new low, sporting one of the worst covers ever vomited out of a printing press. There’s a reason to go digital if ever there was one – at least that way you’ll only see it in passing on your iPod rather than being forced to have it lying around your lounge for years on end.

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