Release Date: Jun 21, 2011
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Gomez rode into America in 1998 on the coattails of the Britpop explosion, but the U.K. fivesome had little common ground with hooky exports like Blur and Pulp. Its genre-blending and mind-blowing debut, Bring It On, and its tripped-out shows actually made Gomez a perfect fit with America’s acronym-loving, jam-band scene (D.M.B., O.A.R., etc.), but the five-piece always seemed loathe to embrace that crowd.
Since Gomez won the Mercury Prize for 1998’s laid-back affair, Bring It On, they’ve continued expanding their sound and crossing into numerous genres with each successive release. 1999’s Liquid Skin introduced a heavier, more psychedelic side (“Devil Will Ride”), and 2002’s In Our Gun strongly featured experimental, layered electronic work (“Shot Shot”). The next three releases, Split The Difference, How We Operate and A New Tide, mostly retained the genre-crossing eccentricities for which Gomez were known.
Gomez has been a remarkably consistent band over the course of 15 years or so, managing to sound like no one but themselves even while their first several albums sounded quite different from each other. On the surface, it might appear that the wild experimentalism of their early days is gone, since Whatever's on Your Mind sounds of a piece with their two other ATO releases despite another different co-producer (Sam Farrar this time out). But a closer listen reveals that the experimentalism is still there, if perhaps a bit more refined.
Review Summary: Things change, Gomez stay the same. Five musicians, four songwriters, three vocalists – one would think that over the course of nearly a decade and a half the differing creative pulls would have torn Gomez apart already. Yet Whatever’s On Your Mind continues the trend that 2006’s How We Operate started for a band remarkably consistent in its power-pop output: another great record, chock full of five-part harmonies and crunchy guitar melodies considerably brightened up by the band’s trademark eclecticism.
When they seized the Mercury Music Prize with the barnstorming Bring It On in 1998, Gomez was like a stiff cup of coffee to help ease the nationwide Britpop hangover. With four songwriters and three singers constantly jostling for focus, the band’s giddy tug of war with one another emphatically dispelled the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Their fizzy cocktail of rock, pop, folk, blues, and electronica earned them the eternally vague “alternative” tag, and has been their enduring blueprint ever since.
For their latest album, Gomez, like a lot of bands, have gone in with the digital technology crowd; Whatever’s on Your Mind was demoed, and by extension, written, over the Web, each of the members uploading ideas on which the others could reflect. Like any of these projects, then, the question — quite aside from the quality of the music — always seems to come down to the effect this working process had on the sound; surely, given the relative independence of Gomez’s members, and given that they don’t really have a leader but three singers and four songwriters out of five members, this album will deliver a radically different band? Unfortunately, it doesn’t: the working practices might have had some novelty but there isn’t much novelty to Whatever’s On Your Mind. In fact, given that Gomez have been going for 15 years now, it’s a surprise that, as with their other albums, it all sounds much alike.
With apologies to Radiohead and My Morning Jacket, Gomez are exactly the kind of band you'd expect to be signed to Dave Matthews' label. They've developed something of a rep as homespun MOR lifers, with a slight cred advantage in that realm on account of a Mercury Prize win and a modest experimental bent. Still, Gomez have never really made the same record twice.
A curious one, this. It all begins pleasant enough with the glammy, strummy, feel good hit of the weekend, “Options”, the sort of tune that takes all the sex and sass out of T. Rex and renders it completely palatable for late night teenage dreams of white horses, white knights, and white castles. But by the midway mark, Whatever’s on Your Mind sounds so sterile, the performances so lifeless, that you have to wonder if there were humans behind it or if it were crafted by a bunch of machines programmed, under contractual obligation, to deliver an album to be inhaled—not chewed and contemplated—for an audience to take what it can get while it awaits the next Coldplay album.
A disappointing return from the former Mercury champions Mike Haydock 2011 It’s a long time since Gomez won the Mercury Music Prize. Thirteen years, to be precise, since they beat The Verve, Massive Attack and Pulp to the award back in 1998. And after one spin of this, their seventh studio album, you’ll think it was even longer ago. Perhaps in another life altogether.
We're supposed to be impressed that Gomez, with members now scattered from Great Britain to Los Angeles, did all of the collaboration for this seventh album via the Internet. This innovative approach to making music did not extend itself to the actual music. Case in point: "Equalize" could have been on any of the group's six previous albums, with Ben Ottewell's grubby bluesman's growl set atop a clanging, energetic melody.