Review ·

Screw the Oscars curse. The Mercury Prize, Britiain’s most respected music award, is the real career-killer disguised as a watershed moment in a band’s career. The list of past winners and snubs at times reads like high comedy. M People over Parklife? Roni Size/Reprazent over OK Computer? Yet, with the case of Gomez, the repercussions of their 1998 Mercury Prize for their debut, Bring It On, are more tragedy  than farce. Bring It On was by no means as original influential or beloved as runners up Massive Attack’s Mezzanine or even the Verve’s Urban Hymns, but it was one of the most perfect simple blues-inspired pop albums of the 1990s. Gomez’s strongest influence was always the Beatles, which makes it a tough sell to any music snob. They disgusted some even further by covering “Getting Better” for the first generation of HDTV ads, years before Modest Mouse made licensing songs acceptable with the “ethics vs. rent money” argument.

 

In fact, the backlash to the award overshadowed what would become one of the more solid, quick-witted, and occasionally transcendent indie-rock catalogs of the last 15 years. Every subsequent album the band released met intensely divided critical reception between those who treated them as a beautiful sweet little blues band and those who still held a grudge over 1998, even as far down the line as How We Operate in 2006. In reviewing 2002’s In Our Gun, Pitchfork’s Eric Carr responded to the band’s “hype” (revolving almost entirely around the Mercury Prize) by calling the band the Blink 182 of blues, a mislabeling that cost Gomez a decade’s worth of American indie fans.

 

Gomez’s albums have been a series of tactical evasions of backlash. Gomez  never accomplished that goal, but in the process, they created a catalog that arguably surpasses Spoon as the best in indie pop of the past decade. Suffice to say, it’s hard to see anyone in Gomez having much sympathy for Vampire Weekend. They’ve basically been going through a decade-long version of the VW syndrome.

 

When all else fails to build an American audience, there are TV and movie soundtracks. After contributions to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, The Hitcher remake, and The Ritches, Gomez seems poised for a breakout with A New Tide, critics holding an 11-year-old grudge be damned. Just to make sure that previously clueless fans give them some indie respect, the band is co-producing A New Tide with Chicago’s Brian Deck, whose previous work includes indie dandies Califone, Iron & Wine and Modest Mouse (and, yes, the Counting Crows).

 

Sadly, I cannot say much positive about A New Tide. It may be the weakest album in their catalog, and my arbitrary numerical ranking will not be doing the band any favors on Metacritic. My recommendation: Give each Gomez Metacritic ranking at least five points extra credit to correct for the embittered.

 

Gomez has rarely been a high-energy band (2004’s Split the Difference being the most notable exception), but they’ve never been boring until A New Tide. Opener “Mix” is the most soporific of the bunch, and a dull opener does nothing but poison an album. There’s a nauseating, uninspired vocal bounce to Tom Gray's Lennon/Cobain hybrid vocals in “If You Ask Nicely,” and that effort is no less turgidly matched by Ben Ottwell’s McCartney/Vedder hybrid vocals in “Bone Tired.”

 

The vicious irony of A New Tide is how much Gomez lyrics self-consciously exemplify their frustration with being misunderstood, a theme that clashes notably with the expectations of A New Tide finally being the band’s American breakthrough. Gomez vents on their lack of perceived coolness in the aptly named “Win Park Slope,” and while “Bone Tired” is a clunker, it shows a band that’s been great for years but has lost its will to try to impress. Particularly frustrating is that these songs about fame are mixed with a handful that rank up with Gomez’s best. There’s a barnstormer in “Airstream Driver,” followed by the soulful “Natural Reaction,” which speaks to how the anxieties of Gomez’s waiting for the fame they were promised 10 years ago has made them neurotic messes.

 

If A New Tide has a thesis statement, it comes in “Little Pieces,” featuring the lyric “Part of you that wants to fight/ But I never really had the appetite.” Between licensing songs up the Wazoo, opening for Dave Matthews Band and signing to Dave Matthews’s label after getting booted from Virgin, it seems the members of Gomez have given up on gaining the critical respect they’ve deserved for years. Instead, they’ve turned into the bland adult-alternative band people blinded by an 11-year-old award have always mistaken them for. Hope you’re happy, haters.

Stinking Lizaveta - Sacrifice and Bliss Lupe Fiasco Lasers

i like it, and with each listen, i like it more...

paul-nz

You speak of "Tom Gray’s McCartney/Vedder hybrid vocals in “Bone Tired.”", Tom Gray does not sing Bone Tired. Ben Ottewell sings Bone Tired, it is in no way clunky either.

I agree with you that the album does have some tracks that you mau not immeadiately warm to; try listening a few times and you'll discover more to them with each listen. If you don't, fair enough, but it's in no way a bad album

Steve

I like the reviewer's interpretation of the lyrics as being about Gomez' frustration with the business, and also agree that ANT is the weakest album to date in the Gomez catalogue (mainly for Very Strange and Lost Track which are probably Ben's worst songs to date. Too bad Caravan got used as an HWO b-side because it would really have fit here and upped the low Tom Gray quotient.) But really -- it's better than 5.5/10. I'd go maybe 7/10 or a little higher. Airstream Driver, Natural Reaction, Little Pieces, Sunset Gates, Other Plans are all terrific post-HWO-era Gomez.

As someone who shares the reviewer's annoyance with the way Gomez gets reviewed by the hipper music magazines, I've found the ANT reviews to be generally less annoying and knee-jerk negative than the reviews for previous albums, even from reviewers who don't care for the disc. I hope that bodes well for the boys in the future.

Oh, and yeah, it's Tom singing If I Ask you Nicely and Ben singing Bone Tired, both pretty decent tunes.

Laura

You guys were right. That mistake's been fixed. Thanks for letting me know without resorting to typical internet hatemongering!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Ethan/nirvana-corporate-rock-whoresjpg.jpg EStan

I have loved Gomez since before the Mercury Music Prize fiasco, have purchased every album (some more than once, due to theft/loss). I sincerely don't get why they have been so maligned by music press. They are by far and away my favourite band, and have been for (how long is it now?) 10 or 11 years...
No one else sounds like Gomez, and you can tell it's them within 2 seconds of listening to a song. They have three strong songwriters, and are amazing live musicians. I have seen them about 10 times (once a year) so I should know.
I like A New Tide, and it does grow on you. I can't wait to see their next gig, and hear some of the tracks live - cos frankly, that's the strength of the Mez. The album is only the kick off point.
But I'm tired of the haters. It's totally unjustified.

Lucyfox

I have now listened to A New Tide probably 30 times and I am beginning to think it is one of Gomez finest and cleverest albums. Airstream Driver is the obvious hit, but I find Mix, Little Pieces (heard them acoustic and solo in Cardiff), Sunset Gates and others simply delightful. Gomez are just the most underrated British band, excellent musicians, and a superb example of how we are suspicious of real talent in the UK and promote good-looking rubbish at the expense of proper music. I am in my early 50's and my daughter Kara is 23, yet we both have every album, listen to Gomez all of the time and have seen them live on many occasions, inc Ben solo in Cardiff and Amsterdam and Ben and Tom in Birmingham, fabulous gigs all. Gomez deserve support and respect for their honesty.

PJS

my favorite song on a new tide is little pieces that song rocks the world.

missym

If nothing else Gomez might be one of the most overanalyzed bands of the last decade, with so many reviewers spending so much time trying to figure out why they never hit it big, especially after winning that oh-so-famous Mercury Prize, which nobody outside the UK ever heard of or gives a rat's butt about anyway. Why can't we just talk about the music and why they just keep writing brilliant songs in the face of all the BS? They are a fortuituous blend of vocal and instrumental magic, with an uncanny ability to talk about themselves in an intimate way, whether about their relationships or their career, without sounding sappy and narcissistic (with the possible exception of a couple of Tom Gray tracks on How We Operate.) One of the songs you cite from the new album, Win Park Slope, which you dismiss as a

rico

Track one is an odd opener true! Still a great album though. LucyFox will you marry me?

Pete

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