Gomez – Liquid Skin

I’d been aware of Gomez since the won a Mercury Music Prize for album of the year in 1998 (with their debut, Bring It On). I’d never listened to them a lot, but every now and then I’d catch them on late-night radio, MTV-2, or playing live on “Later” with Jools Holland. Then, a couple of weeks ago, as we were tidying up our office, one of my colleagues put on this album: Liquid Skin

Right from the very first track “Hangover”, I was hooked. With its jangly guitar work and up-beat blues rhythm, it feels like it has stepped straight off the streets of New Orleans. The second song, “Revolutionary Kind” follows in similar footsteps, but at a more relaxed tempo. The third track, though (“Bring It On”), is completely different, and made me go out the next day and buy the album. It still sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it–especially with the volume cranked up as far as common sense and neighbourly courtesy allows.

Gomez has three main vocalists, Tom Gray, Ian Ball, and Ben Ottewell. On “Bring it On” they all join in, alternating and interleaving the lines of the first two verses, before giving way to Ottewell’s gravely roar for the choruses. And just when you think the song is going to carry on at a full rolling boil, they bring it back to a simmer and play it out loud but calm. It’s a masterpiece of tightly controlled raw energy.

The rest of the album is all about contained energy, too. Even at their most laid back, on tracks like “Blue Moon Rising” and “Rosalita”, you always feel like there could be a ripping guitar solo just around the next musical corner. Although they’re young guys from England, they maintain a very mature American sound throughout, partly Southern blues, partly Californian rock. But really, their style is uniquely their own. (The best comparison I’ve been able to come up with so far is Aerosmith crossed with the Neville Brothers. They trick you into thinking that they’re playing much harder rock than they actually are.)

My other personal favourites on the album are “We Haven’t Turned Around”, a hauntingly melancholy song that makes for great late night listening, and the last track, “Devil Will Ride.” Just as the album starts with three attention-grabbers, so they leave you with a wild ride through burning guitars, mixed-up vocal effects, ending up marching through the streets of New Orleans, with horns and clapping and everything. Majestic and absolutely marvellous.

(Now I’m going to have to go out and get their first album, too!)