Release Date: May 4, 2018
Record label: Caroline
The annual broadcast of the World's Strongest Man competition is, for some, as much a part of the British festive TV calendar as the Queen's speech and Home Alone. An international fleet of physically imposing, Lycra-clad muscle men compete in disciplines such as lifting boulders and pulling articulated lorries by a rope - usually set against the backdrop of a beautiful Caribbean location - in a bid to be crowned World's Strongest Man. Gaz Coombes' third solo LP is a shake-up of that very notion - his reflection on what it means to be a strong man in 2018.
The third solo album from the former frontman of the defunct Britpop band Supergrass, sees Gaz Coombes settling in to his groove of nuanced pop rock that sounds both familiar and peculiar. World's Strongest Man is familiar as it contains similar timeless rock influences as found in Supergrass, such as The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Buzzcocks, and David Bowie. Combining these influences into a stylish mix, the amiable melodies may sound similar to the undiscerning ear, but the songs soon distinguish themselves in differing ways, often revealing an understated transcendence after repeated plays.
The title World's Strongest Man is a feint from Gaz Coombes, a rocking singer/songwriter who has never been known to avoid humor. Not that he's in a particularly laughing mood on World's Strongest Man. Underneath the title boast, Coombes is exploring the outer reaches of his psyche, camouflaging his anxiety underneath shimmering synths, drum loops, and guitars that aren't so much strummed as used for waves of textures.
If the transition of Britpop’s former poster-boys from hedonistic young things to some of music’s elder statesman has ranged wildly in terms of both glory and grace, then Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes can lay claim to a fair whack of the latter, even if he’s not quite risen with the chart-beating bombast of LG. Continuing his route into more elegiac, introverted territory, ‘World’s Strongest Man’ takes its cues from another bunch of cerebral Oxfordians (that’s Radiohead FYI) on ‘Wounded Egos’ and ‘Oxygen Masks’, while even the more pacey ‘Deep Pockets’ is more like an accessible take on krautrock rather than a laddy banger. Gaz’s third solo offering continues to find him moving into his next phase with real class.