London Kensington Royal Albert Hall

The spectacle of these five skinny British boys coming face-to-face with a bona fide Louisiana redneck posse would be a thing to savour...

Some things just can't be explained. Why Gomez, who are from Southport, say 'May-hee-co' rather than 'Mexico', for example. Or why, in this humid fug of sweat and smoke, the two bespectacled frontmen's lenses never steam over. It's a curious business.

Still, even greater questions loom. Gomez have received abundant kudos for their debut album, Mercury Music Award notwithstanding. Their singles, however - bar the scratchily infectious shuffle of '78 Stone Wobble' - have offered little evidence of genius, merely the artificial gleam of a rehashed country-blues convention and lots of very bad singing. So what's the appeal?

As the 'On air' sign flashes, and Gomez hunker down into a chiming haze of feedback and atmospheric sonic mayhem that's more Six By Seven than Tijuana Brass, things sound very promising indeed. Then, they wheel out The Walrus. When Ben Ottewell opens his mouth to sing the big soulful sulk of 'Get Miles', it's like a boozed-up Wookie has been let loose.

Yet people are moshing. There is a man with a moustache onstage, and the crowd is screaming with zealous delight. Surely, something is wrong. Part spaghetti western, part sticky New Orleans house band, Gomez are, above all, absurdly serious pastiche - and clearly, either you get it or you don't.

There are nice touches: the crackly wistfulness and sweet harmonies of 'Here Comes The Breeze', the electro blasts and horse-back bounce of 'Whippin' Piccadilly'. Gomez, to their credit, are unusual, working towards a similar idea of folksy fusion as Beck. But they are not the maverick mariachi desperados they so desperately want to be. The spectacle of these five skinny British boys coming face-to-face with a bona fide Louisiana redneck posse would be a thing to savour.

Artifice outweighs invention, then, and ridiculousness puts a damaging spin on even their finest moments. Gomez's meticulously imagined stage-set construct of southern deltas and steamy nights with Tijuana ladies is charming - but thumpingly unconvincing.

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