Gomez : In Our Gun

Eternal students' funk-soul soup. Tasty...

Mercury winners, critically derided outsiders,

prematurely bewhiskered godfathers of the New Acoustic

Movement – Gomez have certainly taken a bizarre

backwards route to platinum-selling success. The good

news for die-hards is that, on their third album,

these junk-shop stoner [I]’Bagpuss'[/I] types remain firmly

rooted in a parallel universe untroubled by [I]’Pop Idol'[/I]

crassness and unmoved by the great Kylie‘s Arse

Debate. The bad news for casual fans is how

comfortable these sleepy northern souls seem in this

cosy, introverted Gomezworld.

That said, there are ample touches here designed to

confound critics of the band’s patented soft-shoe

sound. From the first technoid belch, a studio sheen

of glitches, twitches and gloops pepper the surface of

most tracks – hardly a surprise for anyone familiar

with 1999’s ‘Liquid Skin’, but the most pointed

foregrounding yet of their Radiohead-meet-Tom-Waits

tendencies. A positive development, for sure.

Cosmetic trimmings, some might argue, but the songs

themselves are also more concise and eclectic than

ever. The title track, especially, evolves jarringly

from a genuinely lovely alt-country waltz into a

thunderous techno-rock mammoth of Prodigy-esque

muscularity. Linkin Gomez, anyone? Then there is ‘Ruff

Stuff’, which patchworks clanking percussion and

video-arcade bloops into a disjointed funk workout,

closely followed by ‘Army Dub’, an angry stomp of

industrial reggae and mud-caked military beats.

But maybe Gomez are protesting too much. After all, it

was never really their antique instrumentation which

made them critical punchbags – look at The Strokes,

the Stripes, Starsailor and every other overpraised

devotee of that most mediaeval of noise machines, the

guitar. The problem has always been more their

apparent unwillingness to wring some kind of emotional

intensity from the damn things – a slackness of focus,

music for music’s sake, the sweetly subjective smell

of your own farts.

And frankly, this fuzziness of tone remains

problematic. There are heart-tugging epiphanies here,

for sure, ironically in the most traditional and

simply arranged tracks such as ‘Sound Of Sounds’.

Rather like ‘We Haven’t Turned Around’ from ‘Liquid

Skin’, this is a stand-out lament of bright,

bittersweet, inconsolable beauty. Think early Stone

Roses, or Travis at their least trite. And ‘1000

Times’ is another sublime stargazer, sad and rumpled

and full of ache. But such soulful asides are hemmed

in by slight, jug-band, jam-session shanties like

‘Even Song’ and ‘Ping One Down’. Not every band needs

to be Joy Division, let’s be clear. But a little more

emotional chaos, a dash of the dark stuff, might make

such avuncular campfire grooves more worthy of our

time and money.

Tighter song structures, more varied sounds, richly layered

production and subtle nods to deeper desires make ‘In

Our Gun’ the most accessible Gomez album yet for

casual fans. Gomezworld remains an agreeable place to

visit, but difficult to love with a passion.

Stephen Dalton