When Gomez first stumbled out of Southport back in 1998, they seemed like the most unlikely bunch of superstars. A bunch of scruffy twentysomethings playing a deeply unfashionable mix of blues and folk, with an unfortunate penchant for ‘jamming sessions’ never seemed likely to work. Happily, Bring It On was one of the best debut albums in memory and went on to claim the Mercury Music Prize. The following year, Liquid Skin built on that success, which means that In Our Gun is one of the most eagerly awaited records of the year.
Despite their success, some people still seem to have a problem with Gomez. Maybe it’s the lack of any discernable image or their ability to sound like gnarled 60 year old bluesmen, but the band certainly seem to rub some people up the wrong way, as the rather unfairly viscous reviews of their B-side collection, Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline seemed to prove. Those people should probably avoid In Our Gun, for while the album is a huge progression for the band, it’s also unmistakably Gomez. Which is a very good thing for the rest of us.
The opening track and recent single Shot Shot sets the tone for the record. A deliciously confusing rush of instrumentation kicks off, before a guitar riff uncannily similar to PJ Harvey‘s 50 Foot Queenie crashes in. It may seem as if they’ve crammed the song with every instrument possible and the uninitiated may be slightly confused at first, but after a few listens ‘Shot Shot’ becomes a fantastic adrenaline rush of a track.
The sheer inventiveness of this album is what makes it such a delight. Each time that Detroit Swing 66 is listened to you’ll pick up something you didn’t hear before. Gomez are also experts at lulling their audience into a false sense of security before hitting them with something totally leftfield. For example, just as the title track seems to have established itself as a mournful lament, a bizarre electronica section finishes the song off, leaving it at a totally different tangent.
While there may not be anything as immediate as Whippin’ Piccadilly or We Haven’t Turned Around, repeated listening shows this to be Gomez’s best album to date. Ruff Stuff in particular is fantastic, it’s queasy opening keyboard introducing a tale of a love affair destroyed by the singer’s drug addiction (“best get clean for her…”) before breaking into a heartfelt yet unconvincing chorus of “I’ve given up fags and drugs now baby…come back”. It’s probably the best thing they’ve ever done and has ‘live favourite’ stamped all over it. Miles End, the bittersweet tale of a ladies’ man losing his pulling power runs it a close second.
As is usually the case, vocal duties are shared between Ben Ottewell, Tom Gray and Ian Ball with Ottewell’s remarkable voice being the most distinctive. All three have equally excellent voices which adds to the variety on offer here. Thankfully too, they’ve cut out the rather self-indulgent solos that took some of the shine off Bring It On and Liquid Skin – with not one track here over six minutes long, the band have tightened up their sound and produced a nicely accessible record.
While In Our Gun may not be perfect – the rather dreary Army Dub starting like a Vangelis out-take for example – there is enough talent on display to suggest that Gomez will be around to wind some people up and delight the rest of us for some years to come.