Not that Gomez are a blues band in the traditional sense. But the album's cozy feel -- think five guys huddled over their guitars, passing smokes and a bottle around the kitchen -- is summed up by Ben Ottewell when he sings, "Share the wine at my table." Gomez aren't above taking the playful potshot at a pop culture that, in their estimation, isn't fit to adjust their hero Son House's guitar strap: Dance culture is Ottewell's target on "Revolutionary Kind," where he sings, "Keep on in the jungle with your technocalities/Keep on lapping up your chemical duty-frees," as electronic sound effects swim around him like exotic fish.
The studio shadow play complements the core sound, built on the loose bedroom interplay of three voices -- Ottewell's sandpaper moan being the most distinctive -- acoustic and slide guitars and deftly accented drums and percussion. The amiable self-produced approach is similar to that of the group's debut album, Bring It On, winner of Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize, but the arrangements on Liquid Skin are more substantial, beefed up with strings and horns, and the songs sturdier -- even if, at first listen, many of them don't sound particularly together.
As the album rolls on, voices murmur while guitars strum idly, as if the listener were eavesdropping on a practice session. The melodies toy with carelessness, the voices straddle the line between singing and conversing. And yet Gomez rarely become complacent in their midtempo grooves or succumb to ramshackle jamming. Songs shift direction with inspired purpose: A piano strides over a rolling snare beat that realigns "Las Vegas Dealer"; a raga-rock coda puts a wicked spin on "Bring It On"; and "Devil Will Ride" sweeps its way toward lighter-waving anthem status on a carpet of horns.
Occasionally, Gomez don't get beyond the first halfway-decent idea, riding the lopsided tempo of "Fill My Cup" into the dust and turning "California" into the unsunniest of dirges. But mostly the tunes take delight in the details: the way a pair of clicking fingers briefly sustains "Blue Moon Rising," the way the sound of heavy breathing becomes part of the percussive backdrop in "Revolutionary Kind," the bile that oozes beneath the surface of the gentle "Rosalita": "Was your plan just to kiss, fuck and leave me so considerately?" At moments like these, Gomez's boho blues don't just shamble. They walk the walk. (RS 823)
(Posted: Oct 14, 1999)
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