Gomez, "Five Men In A Hut (A's B's and Rarities, 1998-2004)" (Hut Recordings, 2006)

Gomez are a five-piece band that hails from Southport, England. Their lineup of singer/guitarists Ian Ball, Tom Gray, and Ben Ottewell, plus bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock, has remained constant since the band's inception in 1996. The band has a very quirky, eclectic sound, bouncing from indie rock to folk to psychedelic to electronic. Having only heard a couple of their songs, I figured their compilation two-CD set Five Men in a Hut (A's B's and Rarities: 1998-2004) would serve as a good introduction to the band.

While I'm not completely certain in hindsight that Five Men In A Hut is the best place to start with Gomez, I was certainly intrigued with what I heard. Gomez combines a strong sense of melody with lyrics of considerable depth and a healthy dose of whimsy. They're also extraordinarily rare among current rock bands in that they have three capable singers. While I think Ottewell's husky tenor clearly overshadows the other two, the contrasting voices and the personalities behind them provided enough diversity to sustain my interest through most of the two and a half hours of music on this album.

There were plenty of highlights for me. "Ping One Down" is catchy, upbeat electronica, and "Sweet Virginia" is a lightly orchestrated extended waltz with a very singable chorus. The most remarkable song on the album is "We Haven't Turned Around," a song about a person who wants to control everything regardless of the consequences. The song was recorded, curiously, in 1999; if it had been done in 2003 or later, it would be easy to make a guess about whom the song was written about. (And if that's not creepy enough, the video was shot in the immediate vicinity of what would become Ground Zero.) Predictably, I guess, the songs I most liked tuned out to be the "A's," or their singles. Only about a third of the songs on Five Men in a Hut appeared on the previous studio albums. While the remainder of this collection reflects the band's experimental and goofy side -- for example, the highly ironic "Dire Tribe" is a silly romp about trying all sorts of pharmaceuticals, legal and otherwise -- there are reasons why some of the "Rarities" are rare.

So while I'd strongly recommend checking Gomez out, I'm not sure yet if you'd be best served starting with Five Men In A Hut or one of their regular albums. I'm going to be moving on to their latest studio album How We Operate, from last year, as I already know two or three songs from the others because of Five Men in a Hut.

Overall grade: B+

No comments: