Gomez - Split The Difference

Like the Beautiful South, Gomez are one of those unfashionable bands who people are reluctant to admit to being a fan of, although their albums shift units and their tours usually sell out too. The Southport rockers have had a lot to live up to since unexpected win at the Mercury Music Prize all those years ago.

Gomez have just returned from America where they played longer sets to a more appreciative audience. Still more of a cult band back in good old blighty. Gomez's best known song and most commercial is "Whipping Piccadilly" which still remains the bands biggest hit single to date. After listening to the entirety of Gomez's latest album "Split The Difference" I can't detect any obvious singles, but Gomez have always been more of an albums band anyway. In the past they've tinkered with electronica to their distinctive blues sound, but on STD they've all but abandoned the high tech sheen to produce a more authentic, organic and naturally guitar based collection of songs. Like The Charlatans Tim Burgess, Gomez's Ian Ball has taken his wife and relocated to Los Angeles so the American influence on the music comes on even stronger then before, if that indeed is possible.

"These 3 Sins" is a song that is ideal for busking. It's almost a throwback to the skiffle movement of the 1950s with it's simplicity and unpretentiousness. The gentle strum of an acoustic guitar, heavy bass and a whimsical air of country folk make this track an appealing and pleasant listen. Lyrically Gomez use biblical similes and their outro is very Beatlesesque. In the same way that 17 year old white girl Joss Stone emulates the sound of large black soul singers from America to precision, well behaved white boy Ben Ottwell still gives the impression that from his gruff, throaty vocal that he's an African American blues veteran swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels whilst smoking 60 a day. This is more than apparent on "We Don't Know Where We're Going", which has the usual Gomez blues vibe, but a weird vocal effect which makes it sound even deeper. The loud bass and pummelling drums resonate sinister overtones, but stylistically it's all over the place and not much of a tune. Truth be told it's a bit of a mess.

"Meet Me In The City" is Gomez sounding like a gospel group auditioning to appear on the 'O Brother Where Art Though' soundtrack. As usual their American obsession is intact, but in an affectionate mood. The piano, double bass and wonderful percussion make this one of the highlights of the album. "Nothing Is Wrong" has a Liam Gallagher style vocal and it's a heavier side to Gomez. Quite commercial with a mellow chorus complete with the comforting aside of "were not gonna judge you". Sweet and accessible.

When Gomez release a new album, it's always different from the last one and "Split The Difference" is no exception. It's no classic, but it'll keep Gomez fans happy and it does grow on you on repeated listens.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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