Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Smooth operators

I finally got my hands on Gomez’s newest release, How We Operate which, upon first listen, impressed and surprised me. That’s hard to do since I’ve come to expect just about anything from this band and didn’t think they could still come up with new approaches.

This album finds Gomez at a crossroads. They seem to finally be on the cusp of broad appeal and at last have the backing of a label willing to promote them and let the band play to their strengths. Still, I’m worried that the boys may be too willing to embrace any possible popularity. Maybe I’m off, but I sense that they’re getting weary of constantly flying under the radar. I’m not going to start criticizing "They’ve sold out!" because who wouldn’t want to be successful at what they do? And these guys deserve it; they’ve paid their dues. I just hope I can still catch them in small, intimate venues when they come around.

So this record sounds more radio-friendly and glossed over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since they’ve never been a deep, pretentious musical act. They’ve always been about having a good time and making some catchy music. Maybe this album is really a reflection of the members growing up and settling down a bit. I found myself enjoying this release more immediately than all of their others, which took time and effort to really embed themselves in my brain. The prior release, Split the Difference was also a quicker "get" for me, but also faded from my interest the fastest. I’m worried this new album will have a similar fate. I hope Gomez haven’t discarded their unique sound to generate a larger fan base.

There are some definite gems in this playlist. Chasing Ghosts with Alcohol clearly depicts their love affair with country and blues. I always thought Ben would have been right at home singing with a slide guitar in some dive bar in West Texas and this song solidifies that idea. Hamoa Beach is classic Gomez: a catchy rythym, uplifting lyrics and infectious harmonies. Woman!Man! and Cry on Demand retain the singalong nature and quirkiness that make Gomez a joy to listen to.

Tom, always regarded as the third singer, finally starts to shine on this album. He’s shown the most growth and progression as a singer and a songwriter. There was evidence of this on their previous release, Split the Difference with the sad yet beautiful Sweet Virginia. Tom manages to top that effort with the newest album’s closer, Don’t Make Me Laugh. It’s sweet, catchy and heartbreaking. It’s rich and textured, and it makes me think that Gomez are still making the music that I respect and expect from them.

After all, how can you not love guys who have this much fun:

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