Music to clean the Volvo to
Gomez live at The Roundhouse, Camden in London on June 21st 2011 by Rachel Lipsitz

Opening their set with ‘Shot Shot’ (taken from 2002 album ‘In Our Gun’), Gomez sonically swing the direction of the track from quiet to loud. With the saxophone distorting and the harmonies rising, they culminate at the perfect pitch. It's a brand of edgy pop that the Southport quintet became renowned for in the Nineties, winning a Mercury Prize in 1998 for their debut ‘Bring It On’ despite facing stiff competition from bands such as Pulp, Massive Attack and The Verve. Back then, Gomez seemed to pick up where ‘Sergeant Pepper's…’ left off, pushing British pop ever forward into enthralling mash-ups of blues, rock, electronica and the future.

That was thirteen years ago, and tonight at the Roundhouse, following an audacious beginning, Gomez start playing songs off their new record ‘Whatever's On Your Mind’, and things take a turn for the worst. Tracks such as 'This Wolf' and 'Just As Lost As You' aren't intrinsically bad, but they lack that distinctive Gomez ingenuity – that ability to counter earnest lyrics with beguiling chord arrangements, or vice versa. Instead, it's all very singer-songwriter, slow-moving ballads that reposition Gomez from the edge-of-pop firmly towards middle-of-the-road. It's music to clean the Volvo to.

Classic hits like 'Whippin’ Piccadilly' and 'Get Myself Arrested' embrace the crowd that jostles and sings back all the words. The distinctive bluesy growl of Ottewell over the indie hooks of Ian Ball remind everyone how damn innovative Gomez once were. But you can't be groundbreaking and consistent at the same time, and as Gomez have matured as songwriters, they've entered the troubling waters of adult-contemporary, and tonight, they sink.

Words by Sascha Kenny
Photos by Rachel Lipsitz

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