Music

Gomez : Bring It On: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Gomez, like the Beatles, hijack the warm russet tones of Americana, but adapt these elements to a British perspective.


Gomez

Bring It On: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Label: Caroline
First date: 1998-04-13
US Release Date: 2008-10-14
UK Release Date: 2008-08-25
Website
Amazon
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

British rock has dwelt under the long shadow of the Beatles for 40 years, and has thus had to struggle all that time with the unconscious reality that the key mass idiom of the faded imperial culture was basically filched from the racial underclass of their rebellious former colony. British musicians have dealt with this burden in many different ways, but none quite as curiously as Gomez. Perhaps as a multiple-songwriter outfit from the Merseyside steeped in classic American blues, jazz, soul and R&B, Gomez were particularly equipped to tread where Britrock's giants had already been. Many of their contemporary peers have a better claim to the Beatles' mantle as world-changing rock stars, and many more replicate the Fab sound with greater alacrity. But as is evident from their 1998 Mercury Prize-winning debut Bring It On, which has received a handsome 10th anniversary reissue from Caroline Records, Gomez are the Beatles' spiritual heirs, in many ways.

Gomez, like the Beatles, hijack the warm russet tones of Americana, but adapt these elements to a British perspective. This influence has no more direct iteration than in the crackling, powerfully bluesy voice of Ben Ottewell on Bring It On's opening exercise, "Get Miles". The groove beneath his vocal is practically a trench, balancing technological modernity with rustic repetition in a manner that has come to define the Gomez aesthetic. But Ottewell's soulful growl blasts a hole through the dense tapestry like a shotgun shell: "I love this planet, man / but this planet is killing me". It's equal parts Delta porch wail and steelworker's union choir tenor, and it's constantly, instantly striking. But Ottewell can go lovely as easily as he can go punchy, crooning over folksy plinking guitar and chamber-quartet fills in the midst of the minimalist "Make No Sound".

But, like the Beatles, one songwriter finds a foil in another. Ian Ball's gentler whine is the emotive McCartney to Ottewell's bullish Lennon. Though Ball's compositions tend towards the poppy, they're rarely merely twee. His singles from Bring It On demonstrate this amply. "Whippin' Piccadilly" is youthful and brisk and thoroughly British ("there's not enough hours in a day"), all wavering vocals and jaunty rhythmic strums at first but then breaking down into cascading electronics. Ottewell leaps in for a bit of offbeat harmonizing worthy of the Band: "it all falls down", he booms out, and he makes sure that you believe that it does. Elsewhere, the groovy "Get Myself Arrested" shares "Piccadilly"'s themes of winking juvenile delinquency and its fiendish catchiness, but sways with a finely-tuned sing-along chorus of maximum wit: "got some friends in my BMW / trying to get themselves arrested". It's got all the attitude of a teddy boy, but elects to use it to send up snide rebels instead of being one of them.

It's not quite right to call Tom Gray the George Harrison of the outfit, as his songwriting role in Gomez eclipses that of Harrison in the Beatles and diverges stylistically from it as well. More of a McCartney in the live setting, mugging for the crowd and exhorting them to action while the others mostly close their eyes and sing, it's unquestionable that Gray is a junior songwriting partner on record. Witness his contributions to their hailed debut: "Love Is Better Than a Warm Trombone" (a title that is much superior to the tune) and "Bubble Gum Years" (a goofy title for well-crafted but clumsy bit of harmony practice).

Though neither Gray's input nor the innovative rhythms lain down by jazzy drummer Olly Peacock and bassist Paul Blackburn can be underestimated, Gomez's finest moments come courtesy of Ottewell and Ball. As befits a vocalist of his rare, primal force, Ottewell has a tendency to dominate. His "Free To Run" is an anthem sung mercilessly to pieces, that rich Southport growl transcending the middling tempo. "Tijuana Lady" is almost postmodern in its direct deployment of ludicrous Mexican stereotypes, but Ottewell's impassioned performance turns it into something burnished, lived-in, mournful, and moving.

Nonetheless, when he shares vocal duties, Ottewell cannily modulates his gifts to blend with those of his fellows. Bring It On's thesis statement may well be "78 Stone Wobble", a febrile two-step featuring all three vocalists, a seemingly omnipresent breakdown, and a popping vinyl sample about retro movie stars. "Here Comes the Breeze" is a creative cruiser, seamlessly switching tempo and tone as Ottewell and Ball harmonize on one indelible melodic line after another. Even when the latent jam-band tendencies explode into rambling excess with the nine-minute "Rie's Wagon", regular pit stops are made at a familiar chorus to keep the drive from appearing endless.

As any seasoned Gomez follower knows, of course, it's tough to get a read on the band unless one considers the reams of B-sides, live rarities, and radio sessions they have produced. Fortunately, the Caroline reissue includes a whole disc of them, including acoustic takes on "Whippin' Piccadilly" and "Rie's Wagon", an alternative thesis statement called "78 Stone Shuffle", some covers (the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and blues standard "Stag O' Lee"), and plenty of session tracks of varying quality (one of which, "Brother Lead", would later morph into the bridge for the title track from their latest release, How We Operate). A fuller picture of the band is provided, but then the album they accompany was already fairly full, almost to bursting. The collaboration of distinct talents, the expansive sonic palette, and the solid melodic backbone make Bring It On a rich and essential example of the best that millennial British rock had to offer.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image