Category Archives: Gomez

Rocks In The Attic #804: The Band – ‘Moondog Matinee’ (1973)

RITA#804If The Band had been born thirty years later, and were from Southport, they’d be called Gomez. Stay with me here…

Not only is there a rootsy vibe going on in both bands, but they both feature multiple vocalists and occasionally swap instruments. The biggest difference, apart from time itself, is their nationality. The Band are Americana incarnate whereas Gomez couldn’t be more English. Members of The Band have strange North American names like Levon and Garth, while Gomez have middle-class English names like Tom, Ben and Olly.

I first saw Gomez when they were touring second album Liquid Skin, on the Other Stage at Glastonbury 1999. Last week, twenty years later, I finally saw them for the second time. They played at Auckland’s fantastic Powerstation, as part of their Liquid Skin 20th Anniversary tour, a full seven years after the last time they graced our shores. I missed the 2012 show for some reason, but really glad I caught this one: a full play-through of their 1998 debut Bring It On, followed by a full performance of Liquid Skin.

RITA#804aI’m glad to report the years have been kind. When I first saw them, I was as curious as everyone else at the voice of guitarist Ben Ottewell. In 1999, he was just a podgy twenty-something with a much bigger voice than himself. He’s now grown into his vocal chords, a genial bear of a man. Performing live, he was dependant on too much reverb, but you could still hear the magic in his soulful voice. It reminded me a bit of Simon Fowler from Ocean Colour Scene, another band I recently saw at the same venue.

The rest of the band were exactly the same as I remember them from ’99. The genial Tom Gray (vocals / guitar / keyboards) talked the most to the audience. Twenty years ago I remember him telling the Glastonbury crowd to turn around a look at the sunset. He hasn’t changed a bit. Neither has the other guitarist / vocalist Ian Ball. Still as scrawny as he was all those years ago, he’s the most cocky and aloof of the three frontmen. Drummer Olly Peacock hasn’t aged a day, and the only real casualty of the band is the hairline of bassist Paul Blackburn, now fully shaved.

Given the type of material of the three songwriters, it is Ball’s songs that seem the most normal – straightforward post-Oasis Britpop that you would hear in any band (including my own) from that time around the late ‘90s. It’s the mixture of Ottewell’s southern-fried soul and Gray’s jazzy melodies that gives Gomez their unique sound. If anything, it feels like Ball is the lucky one of the three, for finding other songwriters that would provide an interesting counterbalance to the ordinariness of his own material.

After they played through both albums, they returned to the stage for just one song – a frantic, AC/DC-inspired version of Whippin’ Picadilly, played ‘like we did when we were teenagers.’ A magical night, for sure, and I still made it home to watch the All Blacks beat Wales to take bronze in the World Cup.

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I’m serious about the comparison to The Band though. And of all the Band’s LPs, studio album number five, Moondog Matinee, is perhaps the most Gomez-ey. It’s one of the more kookier entries in the Band’s back catalogue, and finds them recording an entire album’s worth of cover songs.

The original idea was to replicate their mid-‘60s setlists, when they were known as Levon & The Hawks, but only one song – Share Your Love (With Me) – from this period appears. It sounds like a happy album, but the reality was a band starting to come apart at the seams. ‘That was all we could do at the time,’ Levon Helm later explained. ‘We couldn’t get along; we all knew that fairness was a bunch of shit. We all knew we were getting screwed, so we couldn’t sit down and create no more music. Up on Cripple Creek and all that stuff was over—all that collaboration was over, and that type of song was all we could do.’

Hit: Ain’t Got No Home

Hidden Gem: Mystery Train

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Rocks In The Attic #397: Gomez – ‘Liquid Skin’ (1999)

RITA#397I’ve really made a mistake by not listening to this for the past 15 years or so. Whenever I feel like listening to Gomez, I always go straight for their debut album – I don’t even think about it, I just grab that one by habit. This one – album number two – has sat there on my shelf, next to its more famous predecessor, all this time, unloved.

I sometimes wish I could be one of those people who keeps their collection in disarray. Don’t those orderless people just grab things at random? Perhaps if my collection wasn’t in alphabetical order – and chronological within each artist, of course – this album might have stood more chance to get listened to. Instead, it’s just been sat there, taking up space, gathering dust.

I loved this album when it came out in 1999. I used to really blast it when I was DJing, so for a good time, the Indie bars / clubs on Oldham’s Yorkshire Street were soundtracked by Gomez. We also used to do a passable version of Whippin’ Picadilly in the band I was playing in at the time. The record also brings back fond memories of my first Glastonbury that year, when the band were touring this album – playing the Other Stage just as the sun was setting.

Why the hell have I not listened to this since I stopped playing it for the ungrateful ears of anybody who happened to be sat in the Castle on Saturday nights? It’s got a heap of great tunes – Bring It On, Blue Moon Rising, We Haven’t Turned Around, Rhythm & Blues Alibi.

I think I’ve been operating under the impression that Liquid Skin was a step down for the band, but it wasn’t. It’s just as strong as that first album, Bring It On. The only thing that it doesn’t have that its predecessor has is the shiny new car smell of a new band (with a new sound) on the scene.

Hit: We Haven’t Turned Around

Hidden Gem: Hangover

Rocks In The Attic #75: Gomez – ‘Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline’ (2000)

Rocks In The Attic #75: Gomez - ‘Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline’ (2000)This album is number 2.5 for Gomez – a collection of b-sides and outtakes released between their second and third albums. I must have liked both of their first two albums enough to buy this, but I don’t think I listened to it more than once or twice.

I’ve never really understood outtakes albums – well I understand them – but I think in most cases you need to be a total and complete fan of the band to truly appreciate them. This is very true of this album – it’s all recordings made in and around the sessions and tours of the first two albums, but where a studio album is pored over and analysed, this sounds as cobbled together as you would expect.

Also, the vinyl format of this album isn’t assisted by the fact that they’ve crammed 49 minutes on one disc. Normally that would be okay, but given that the first two albums are double-LPs, this just doesn’t have the depth and clarity to stand up to those records.

This was the last Gomez record I bought – but if I saw any of their other ones on vinyl, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Hit: 78 Stone Shuffle

Hidden Gem: Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here

Rocks In The Attic #6: Gomez – ‘Bring It On’ (1998)

We used to do a cover of Whippin’ Picadilly in a band I played in back in 1999 and 2000. It was a pretty bad cover as I think we only half-learnt it, and I remember it used to really hurt my fretting hand because of the constant barre chords used throughout the song.

I’d definitely heard of Gomez by this time because I remember the hype surrounding them when they won The Mercury Music Prize for this album, but I hadn’t bought anything by them. I seem to remember that, buoyed on by our lead singer, I went out and bought this album on vinyl.

Not long after, I saw Gomez play at the first Glastonbury I went to, back in 1999. They played on the Second Stage, just as the sun was setting and it was a real festival moment. I stuck with them enough to buy their second studio album, Liquid Skin (1999), and their third release, a collection of outtakes and b-sides called Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline (2000), but by this time I had lost interest.

Hit: Whippin’ Picadilly

Hidden Gem: Tijuana Lady