Ah, the curious case of Gomez.� A dozen years and four solid albums on from their Mercury Prize-winning debut, the suddenly mercurial Southport quintet has apparently undergone devolution.� After all, in the context of the other, more cohesive components of their catalogue, A New Tide is comparatively ramshackle, immature, and sophomoric.
So what happened?
The superstitious will contend that such a dud was inevitable.� Gomez would, by no means, be the first artist upon which the Mercury Music committee has bestowed what many believe is the creative kiss of death.� Blaming that supposed curse seems inappropriate, though, as much of the band’s material beyond their introduction has been superb.
Instead, consider another skulking threat.� Lurking quietly, it steadily ingrained itself in their production and, eventually, composition.� That toxin is technology.
Geographical isolation is no match for modern networking.� From a communication perspective, internet innovations have revolutionized our ability to stay in touch.� However, considering A New Tide as an example, one can not help but conclude that the virtual path to remote musical collaboration is fraught with peril.
Brilliant, rootsy gems such as 78 Stone Wobble, Get Myself Arrested, and Rhythm & Blues Alibi, the fruits of a band who have, from the beginning, exhibited remarkable musical and songwriting competence, were clearly the result of intimate and effective collaboration.� Their proficiency on stage further reinforced this point, given their knack for exceptional improvisation.
All the more reason why their latest release, an intercontinental project written and recorded by members stationed on both sides of the Atlantic, feels disjointed and disconnected.� It’s quite evident that tracks were written separately, forcefully fused, and later overlaid with a variety of extraneous effects and instrumentation to produce a rather unfocused sequence of songs.
This is not to say that the band hasn’t explored multiple styles on a given album in the past, and that the melding of those different perspectives is problematic.� Consider, for instance, their similarly polished ATO debut How We Operate, on which the three vocalists displayed rather varied musical viewpoints.� Observe Ian Ball’s sensitive singing in Notice, the folksiness underscoring the deliciously gritty vocals of Ben Ottewell, or Tom Gray’s quirkiness in Girlshapedlovedrug.� While their angles vary, they converge nicely to create a solid entity, greater than the sum of its delectable pop rock parts.
The same cannot be said for A New Tide.� While, for example, a similar vocal roll call (with Mix, Bone Tired, and If I Ask You Nicely serving as analogs to the aforementioned How We Operate tracks) opens the record, it’s evident that a comparable engagement between the tracks is not in the cards.� The songs and ideas built on those styles are nowhere near as inspired, and no longer feel complementary.
Gomez are incapable of creating a truly disastrous album, though.� The delta blues influences of their earliest work re-emerge triumphantly on Win Park Slope, while the terrific and bouncy groove Airstream Driver is a commercial hit lying in wait.
Be that as it may, it is the band’s recent failure to effectively collaborate, and for these 11 tracks to properly mesh, that has fostered the mediocrity inherent in A New Tide.� The miles that now apparently separate this once tightly melded group could not be overcome via ethernet.
Virtual cooperation has led to the assembly of a rough mix of inchoate tracks.� This is a somewhat dramatic departure for a group who, from the beginning, has exhibited a musical wisdom beyond their years.� In spite of their prowess, without intimate and in-person collaboration from the outset, expect future releases to be similarly sterile and detached.