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Gomez: Disappearing Act

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: May 10, 2006


Gomez
w/ David Ford
Saturday, May 13
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha
$15

Where did Gomez go?

People who followed the band after their '98 breakthrough debut, the Mercury Prize winning Bring It On, just assumed that its success was the launching pad for the British band's rise on the American pop charts. More than once the phrases "on the heels of Oasis" and "the new Beatles" were seen printed in national music rags.

On top of that, the band's cover of The Beatles' "Getting Better" became a pseudo-hit when it was used in a Phillips light bulb TV commercial. Some thought it was better than the original, thanks to Tom Gray's and Ben Ottwell's gravelly delivery.

The band followed Bring It On with Liquid Sky in '99 and In Our Gun in '02, both released on tiny Hut Records, a subsidiary of Virgin. But with every subsequent release, Gomez failed to recapture the hype that surrounded their debut, even though the music was just as clever and catchy. By the time Split the Difference was released in '04, Hut Records had disintegrated, making it their last release involving Virgin.


 

 

 

"From a recognition standpoint, it's been an interesting ride," said Gomez bassist/guitarist Paul Blackburn via cell phone after just arriving in New Orleans, where the band was scheduled to perform as part of the city's famous Jazz and Heritage Festival that evening. "We started out and got some acclaim with our first album, and after that, we kind of got whacked a bit."

Blackburn said the let down didn't come from the band, but from the label, which didn't have the firepower to capitalize on Gomez's early success. "A lot of people get a big push with every album, but we got less and less," he said. "Virgin took everything (promotion-wise) in house, so they wouldn't have to spend a lot on the record. It made it difficult. For the last record, the label (Hut) closed down, and Virgin didn't know what to do with us. They put us in the hands of people that didn't sign us. It didn't work out."

But a funny thing happened as all that was going on. For reasons unknown to the band, Gomez caught the ear of the Jerry Garcia-worshipping tribe known as the jam band crowd. Before they knew it, the band found themselves with an entirely different group of fans, a fiercely loyal lot that smelled of incense and stale pot.

"We did the Jam Cruise this year down in Florida," Blackburn said proudly. "We played Red Rocks with Gov't Mule headlining. It's cool. I don't think we're a jam band, but it's nice that people from that scene like what we're doing. We have a couple of songs where we jam out. When we did that cruise thing, we wondered how it would go down. We were the only band there that played four-minute songs. What will they think? They enjoyed it."

Propelled by that momentum, Gomez reentered the studio to record How We Operate, the first studio release on their new label, ATO. No, the band didn't give in to any jam-band tendencies. Instead, they stayed the course, playing the same earthy, British-sounding folk rock that they're known for outside of the hippy beltway.

Perhaps more than any other Gomez release since the debut, How We Operate has a streamlined consistency that rings throughout its 12 tracks of tweedy, mid-tempo rock. Blackburn points to the record's producer, Gil Norton, who's worked with Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat Word and Foo Fighters.

"With a new label, we were starting out fresh," Blackburn said. "That allowed us to make a number of changes. We had never worked with a producer before, and it turned out for the best."

Blackburn said Norton's influence was felt in how he pulled the songs together into a structured whole. "It was more in terms of making the songs more cohesive, and making it something that would work better as an album," he said, adding that while the record may have a more commercial slant than previous releases, that was never the plan. "Our only goal at the time was to get the record in the best shape possible."

It's a goal that also applies to their live show, which Blackburn said will include a mix of tunes from the new album along with some chestnuts from the Gomez catalog.

"We're more seasoned now," he said, comparing the band to their earlier years. "We figured out what it's like being away on the road, getting drunk every night. We learned how to pace ourselves, and realized it's better than waking up with a hangover every morning."


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Published in The Omaha Reader May 10, 2006. Copyright 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

 

 



"For the last record, the label (Hut) closed down, and Virgin didn't know what to do with us. They put us in the hands of people that didn't sign us. It didn't work out."