August 9, 1999
Two-thousand AD, then: with three months to go and despite scientists' best efforts, it looks like we won't be gliding around in hovercars, taking our food in pill form, nipping off to Mars for a summ
7 / 10
Two-thousand AD, then: with three months to go and despite scientists' best efforts, it looks like we won't be gliding around in hovercars, taking our food in pill form, nipping off to Mars for a summer break or listening to Japanese techno for pleasure. No, in late-1999 that vision of the future still seems like a long way off because, let's face it, the past hasn't been completely recycled yet and everyone is so desperately frightened of inching that first step forward in case, perhaps, they might look a tiny bit stupid.
In short, in 1999, we have no-one to take us there; no heroes, no villains - only blokes with guitars and bad haircuts and really-quite-nice-songs that sound marvellous in huge Somerset fields and on the pub jukebox. Those we pinned our hopes and hearts on - Oasis, Blur, The Verve - have joylessly disintegrated and now we're left with a vanilla smudge of adequate averageness. Stand up, Travis, Stereophonics. And, oh yes, stand up, Gomez.
But Gomez are such a lovely bunch of lads, how could they ever be part of the problem? Sure, they've nothing to say and they're hardly pin-up material but that's not their fault. They just write the songs, get by as best they can and, whoops, they've done it again. For on the face of it, 'Liquid Skin' is very much like last year's award-scooping demo collection 'Bring It On', only bigger, even more confident and with far better production. But honestly, what did you expect? If you want surprises, hang around King's Cross at night - at least you'll be challenged.
We know, too, that 'Bring It On' was no fluke. Here are proper, old-fashioned songs of ingenious, fluid construction (see how 'Fill My Cup''s ramshackle blues seesaw seamlessly into bruising skate metal) and impeccable musicianship; of women and wine, and, significantly, of how brilliant America is. There's more credence in Gomez's love affair with the States this time, given that the band are on the cusp of breaking that market and have actually visited their promised land, but there's still something acutely risible in Ben Ottewell's walrus-voiced offerings to "mah people". "Don't you worry sweet dahlin'/It's gonna be alright", he bellows during 'Fill My Cup', while on 'Las Vegas Dealer' his "precious Laura Lee has gawn". The last track should have been called 'Have A Nice Day Y'All'.
But it's not. It's called 'Devil Will Ride' and - crikey - it's got a vocoder and 'Sgt Pepper' strings and an FM rawk "bye bye baybeh bye bye" chorus and it is, like everything on 'Liquid Skin', authentic and convincing and comfortably ambitious within its own myopic frame of reference. It's 'real' R&B, none of this "shakes her body on the TV screen" modern nonsense R&B supastars like Missy Elliott are getting away with, as they snipe on 'Rhythm & Blues Alibi'.
Make no mistake - 'Liquid Skin' is a good album. The Americans will love it. Believe in Gomez if you must, but really, what does that say about your life? What does that say about you?
Still, last we heard, Mars is unbearably hot all year round.
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