Gomez | A New Tide (ATO/Red)

cd_gomez.jpgOn their latest release, Gomez have fused tightly written songs with a welcome return to the defining, earthy sound of their early years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early in its career, the British band Gomez flirted with the "jam band" label, even on studio albums. A powerful, blues-infused, psychedelic sound was often packaged in meandering songs that were enjoyable, but might have gone on for an instrumental section longer than was necessary or wise. After wandering into poppier, more radio-friendly territory on their last two albums, the members of Gomez have learned some lessons about the benefits of economical songwriting; on their latest release, A New Tide, they have fused tightly written songs with a welcome return to the defining, earthy sound of their early years.

As usual, vocal duties are shared evenly across the album by the lyrically cheesy Ian Ball, the powerfully voiced Ben Ottewell and the workman-like Tom Gray. Thankfully, the stellar harmonies that have been minimized on recent efforts are back in full force, especially on "Natural Reaction." The album’s production is incredibly full, as evidenced on the album’s opener, "Mix," which starts as a sparse acoustic piece but builds to a lush soundscape of multi-layered guitars. Guest cellist Oliver Krauss provides nice string accents, most effectively on the album’s dreamy, dark centerpiece, "Win Park Slope." Amy Milan (of Broken Social Scene) provides guest backing vocals on "Other Plans."

But it’s the album’s first single, "Airstream Driver," with its fuzzy, stomping blues compacted to just over three minutes, that is the embodiment of how confident and comfortable Gomez has become. There are some missteps on this record ("Very Strange," a catchy but generic song that sounds tailor-made for a grocery-store sound system springs to mind), but A New Tide is primarily a strong testament to a band returning to its roots with a new sense of itself. B+ | John Shepherd

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