Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bring It On, In Retrospect

As a 14-year-old boy in rural Northern Ireland, before the age of the Internet, it’s fair to say my exposure to The Blues was limited. Sure, The Commitments was as hallowed in our house as any in Ireland, but The Commitments was a laugh. Nothing more. It was always going to take something unusual to spark an interest in the genre, luckily, that something came, and when it did, it took me and countless other barely-adolescents with it.

Gomez are, on the face of it, as unlikely bluesmen as you’ll ever come across. A bunch of student scruffs from Southport, emerging in the fallout of Britpop. Theirs is a tale that bears reflection. Their debut album is one that warrants revisiting. And when you do, there’s every chance you’ll find it every bit as good as you remember.

From the opening, grinding bars of Get Miles, to the now infamous skiffle riff of Whippin’ Piccadilly, to the soothing mariachi strum of Tijuana Lady (yes, I realise the song is a piss take, but it’s still a damn fine tune) and epic and bi-polar centrepiece, Here Comes The Breeze; Bring It On remains, for me, one of the best British albums of my time.

The album won the Mercury Music Prize at a time when it might have meant something, but there were greater achievements than that. Gomez showed at least one 14-year-old that you didn’t have to have a mop-top hairdo, didn’t have to owe an overriding debt to The Beatles, The Kinks or The Stones to make a classic album.

It seemed absurd at the time that these boys had the gall to take on The Blues, but face it; grizzled Louisianans hardly have a monopoly on money woes, boozing, run-ins with the law and tales of sexual triumph and despair. The shoe fitted for Gomez (and probably most students) and they took their chance in glorious style. I remember thinking that I must have unearthed a gem. Nobody else in my year had cottoned on to Gomez; most were still too busy with Be Here Now.

But in the years since, countless people have told me the album had a similar impact on them and their musical taste. Bring It On was my gateway album, encouraging me to listen to different things and not to trust everybody else’s taste. From here, it went OK Computer, Grace, The Sophtware Slump, The Beta Band and Deserter’s Songs, certainly not the most avant-garde of digressions – but some big steps in the right direction.

Unfortunately, Gomez were never quite able to match the high standards set by Bring It On and have become standard cannon fodder for the music press. Liquid Skin is a good album, with some excellent standout tracks (Rhythm and Blues Alibi and We Haven’t Turned Around spring to mind), but their collection of rarities and B-sides, Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, is better than any of the proper albums they have released since then. Perhaps it’s been an albatross around their necks, but many bands would kill to have such a headache.

Here’s my favourite track from the album, Free to Run:

Video: Gomez – Free to Run


Robert Head said...

What happened to your following my blog? Lol. I may not be able to come in for Friday's exam so could you possibly leave with the book with the college - Patrick or someone - and I'll try to pick it up on Monday. Did you enjoy it? Get back to me on my e-mail address: robert_head89@yahoo.co.uk

Good luck with shorthand. Also, do you have Mark's e-mail address?

Robert Head said...

That's an absolutely brilliant review - and played from the heart, too. I've never really got into Gomez. I may have to give 'em a try.

Finbarr Bermingham said...

Cheers Robert, I would recommend the first two albums and their early collection of rarities, which has their cover of The Beatles' Getting Better from the Panosonic ads all those years ago. After that, it's hit and miss...