I recently came under fire for being too cruel to the new Gomez record. Specifically, I came under fire from City Lights editor Mike Riggs, who called me a “harsh motherfucker” and who really, really enjoys the song “Little Pieces,” which (he tells me) ran as intro/outro music to yet another episode of Grey’s Anatomy two weeks ago.
While I can’t explicitly tool on Riggs for watching Grey’s Anatomy, I can at least clarify my review. What made past albums from the Southport, U.K.-based indie-rollers special was the very personal glee that came through in even their higher-fi tunes. It always sounded as though they were gathered in some Big Pink-like hideaway, strumming mismatched patterns on a beat-up acoustic, allowing their dealer to sit in on bongos, &c. Their more produced material maintained that glee, got occasionally ethereal in a way that sideswiped Coldplay, and, for all its jangling and twangling, never lapsed into vapid Americana. Take a track from the first record—”Get Myself Arrested,” a little ditty about rock stardom and fast cardom:
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As album piled on top of album, experimentation subbed in more and more for real innovation, but the bells and whistles were never really an issue as long as the songs were there. That and the wisdom not to take themselves too seriously.
Yet here we are with the overweening A New Tide, a record that suffers not mainly from lame songwriting but from hollow emotionality, a sense of self-importance, and a lack of fun. All of which is, you know, their prerogative, and the music’s intermittent posturing doesn’t keep more than half of the tracks from being totally listenable. I’d rather listen to latter-day Gomez than to the average indie-pop record, and when in doubt, I tune out the lyrics and just dig the layers. (Overproduction has its perks.)
Whatever. On A New Tide, stick to the choice cuts: “Other Plans” (CSN parrotry), “If You Ask Nicely” (elegant pop-shimmy), “Airstream Driver” (diaphanous chug-a-lug), and def. “Sunset Gates” (general yearning). Good tracks, all.