We have reached the era of the iPod, and with its arrival, rock journalists have started to toll the bells on the album as we know it. Maybe it's because I don't own one, but I'm not quite ready to sound the death knell quite yet. I've got too soft a spot in my heart for these offerings--from Rubber Soul to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the true masterpieces of rock 'n' roll, to me, aren't necessarily individual songs, but the whole package in which they reside. Of course, my take on the situation hasn't stopped the musicians from moving on, shifting to a song-by-song emphasis in hopes of maneuvering in a 99-cent per download economy. Into this arena slips Brit rockers Gomez with their new release Split the Difference. Here the songs take precedence and there seems to be nary a wisp of connective tissue between them. Fall asleep during one track and wake up two tracks later and you'll have trouble knowing if your 100-disc changer has turned over on you.

Well, how are the songs, then? I'd say they're top-to-bottom in the "good" or "very good" range: nothing overwhelmingly titillating and nothing overwhelmingly shit-taking. Of course, with a release like this, with such a song-to-song disconnect, you're bound to dislike some of it, but I won't dwell on that. For the most part this is a good listen through and through--"solid" if I may be cliché. "Sweet Virginia" is the centerpiece of the CD, taking on almost epic form as it twists through wailing sections of vocals and guitars and triumphant refrains over understated violin and mandolin that would do the latter-day Jeff Tweedy proud. "These 3 Sins" evokes the silly daydream of the Monkees with a funked-out bass line out of a Nashville session. Other portions provide the fist-pumping, guitar and bass driven rock 'n' roll that characterized mid-'90s mosh pits. What can I say? This album is all over the place; in the end keep it off the Ritalin, pop the tunes that move you onto your MP3 player, and leave the rest at home. Now I know why they called it Split the Difference.

File between "?" and "!"

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 6/1/04]

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