Gomez: A New Tide

By: Bill Clifford

Ten years after winning the distinguished Mercury Music Prize for their debut, Bring It On, Gomez has yet to live up to that standard, at least not in this critic's opinion. However, the British band has achieved much lauded success in the U.S., steadily selling CDs stateside and scoring major television airplay with two cuts from its 2006 CD How We Operate. Much of its U.S. commercial appeal can be attributed to a polished, radio ready sound that deviated from their early, independent and experimental roots.

Despite its title, not much has changed with A New Tide (released March 31 on ATO). The band continues to surf a wave of commercial success, cresting at #60 on the Billboard 200, its highest charting effort to date. However, reviews have been mixed, with Billboard stating that the CD is "a brilliant 11-song collection of lyrical jewels," while the tastemaker Pitchfork declared, "It's a showy album with very little to show."

For recently acquired fans, A New Tide won't disappoint. The 11 cuts mix mostly contemporary adult alternative rock with less conventional experimental electronic flourishes. The CD's first three cuts each feature the band's three vocalists. Opener "Mix" combines lovely acoustic strums with soaring electric rhythms, while vocalist Ian Ball's youthful, elegant warble drifts lightly atop, bolstered by hushed vocal backing on the chorus by Ben Ottewell. The husky voiced Ottewell then takes lead on "Little Pieces," a loose fingerpicked electric riff that is enveloped into a fiery crash of electric fuzz and pounding bass and drums. Lyrically, the narrator compares a broken relationship he's glad to be free of to a puzzle:

Last piece of the jigsaw
All the others scattered upon the fall
So you try to pick them all up
Little pieces falling in the dust

"If I Ask You Nicely" features the playful lead vocals of Tom Ball, as well as his upbeat keyboard swirls. It's one of the most imminently catchy cuts on the CD, reminiscent to a long lost Monkees track. Mostly though, the songs trade off between Ball and Ottewell. The ambient "Win Park Slope" cascades into the acoustic ballad "Bone Tired," which includes campfire harp laid down by Ball. Lead single "Airstream Driver" blends metallic guitar with all sorts of percussion - handclaps, cowbell, wooden sticks - into an addictive, propulsive swirl of a rocker. "Very Strange" is a prime example of Gomez's skill with tension and release, slow-fast dynamics that will make the song a sure bet as a concert staple. Stand-up bass and deep bass drum reverberations are the foundation of lovely closer "Sunset Gates," which is accentuated by pulsating organs and Ottewell's husky baritone, all of which erupt in a powerful crescendo with a cacophony of swirling horns.

In the end, A New Tide is not an award worthy, life altering CD the way that Bring It On was for many at the time of its release. But, it is a well produced, written and performed CD worthy of high praise and repeat listens.

JamBase | Continuing Apace
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[Published on: 6/12/09]

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