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Gunplay

 

Gomez: In Our Gun

Hut/Virgin, 2002

Rating: 4.3

 

 

Posted: April 14, 2002

By Laurence Station

Gomez, like the Band in its heyday, is a quintet with three lead singers, and both groups share a fascination with American culture and history. But aside from these obvious, superficial coincidences, a more essential characteristic binds the two outfits: Music with deep roots, tying the band members to something older and wiser than current pop trends, a shared heritage that predates recorded sound.

Hailing from Southport (near Manchester, England), Gomez broke onto the UK scene in 1998 with the Mercury Music Prize-winning Bring It On. Bluesy, jam-oriented and incredibly loose, Bring It On was a solid, if not overawing debut. Defusing the pressure for a follow-up by coming out with Liquid Skin the very next year, Gomez produced a basic reworking of Bring It On, as rendered in a professional studio. The demo quality of the original had been refined and sharpened. The unwieldy jams curtailed in favor of tighter arrangements and improved songcraft. And, unlike the Band, which seemed to retreat from its success and expanding fan base (subsequently putting out less effective material as a result) Gomez appears to be gaining steam with each new offering.

In Our Gun follows the basic setup of the first two albums, with guitarist Ben Ottewell, keyboardist/guitarist Tom Gray, and multi-instrumentalist Ian Ball trading off vocal duties, while drummer Olly Peacock and bassist Paul Blackburn assist with background harmonies. The main difference between In Our Gun and the first two efforts is the expanded melodic scope. The bluesy foundation remains, but it's been complimented by cleverly mixed electronica elements (especially effective on "Army Dub"), reoccurring saxophone (most prominent on the buoyant "Detroit Swing 66"), and rich acoustic balladry ("In Our Gun," "Sound of Sounds").

The title track, inspired by George W. Bush's victory in the contested 2000 presidential election (and the future implications his rise to power portends), starts off with a placid, acoustic structure, breaking down in the final two minutes to explode into a skittering, bass-powered mini-jam that perfectly captures the sense of unease and frustration felt during that controversial transfer of power. Concern for such worldly affairs gestures toward a more pronounced global consciousness on Gomez's part, which appears to have influenced the band's broadening sound as well.

The drippy bedtime story "1,000 Times" is In Our Gun's lone dispensable track, serving up an undeniably pretty but ineffectual number that adds little to the rest of the record.

Thematically, a sense of cynical pacifism runs through In Our Gun: The title track, the desperate "Even Song" and the nervy "Ping One Down" echo the uncertain times affecting us all. Yet violence is clearly not the answer, although each song offers tempered optimism that those in power will ever resort to anything less brutish when respective crises come to a head. Fortunately, the music manages to evoke a palatable sense of dread without sinking into utter doom and gloom despair, opting instead for a cathartic reassurance that becomes more pronounced with each listen.

The Band (especially on its first three albums) managed to make music that was both timely and timeless. With In Our Gun, Gomez pulls off the same feat. The album reflects the anxious world of today, but speaks to a general condition of barbarism that has plagued humankind since civilization began. Not content to be merely a derivative Americana-infatuated faux-blues outfit, the group has matured, learning how to push the experimental envelope while wisely staying in touch with its warmly humanistic and notably borderless musical heritage.

 
Trolley Stop
Fans craving a more offbeat Gomez should check out the intriguing odds and sods collection Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline. Be on the lookout for select copies that came bundled with the Machismo EP, a direct precursor to the more eclectic sound found on In Our Gun.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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