Gomez – Bring It On (1998)
I was visiting a mate who I was playing in a band with at the time, and he lived right by a huge Tesco store that had very recently become Southport’s first 24-hour supermarket. I was sixteen years old, and my musical interest was sparked. We decided to walk down there late one night and check out the records – it was only a short wander through a few back lanes and alleys, through a derelict carpark and then into the lights. Those were the days when supermarkets were like record shops – and I had this strange compulsion to buy this unusual looking album on the shelf. Something about the artwork seemed to swallow me whole. I just knew, somehow, from the artwork, that I would like the music. Gut instinct is a curious thing, isn’t it?
The album was Bring It On by Gomez, and I had no idea at the time how odd this compulsion would turn out to be. Buying it purely on instinct, I had no idea that I was paying for a record from a band hailing from my own home town, Southport, and I had no idea that the guys in Gomez had attended the same college where I was studying at the time. I had even less idea that this would become one of my favourite records ever. Sometimes you’ve just got to trust those instinctive feelings and ride with them.
The strength of this brilliant debut can be measured by the fact that it won the 1998 Mercury Music Prize for Album Of The Year, beating off contenders such as Urban Hymns by The Verve and Mezzanine by Massive Attack. I mean, it beat Urban Hymns. Holy shit! That’s massive.
Spin Magazine called Bring It On it “a damn beautiful album,” and it went Platinum in the U.K almost immediately. It was a time where indie bands had crept from the shadows of the stage into the full glare of the spotlight. Britpop had raged, and a new musical assault was forming. It was beyond indie – a fusion of vintage with futuristic. Gomez were in the right place, at the right time, with the right record.
Gomez combine a very clever, steaming cauldron of American Blues, Jazz, Grass-Roots, R&B and warm, harmonious melodies on Bring It On. It’s endlessly inventive, with its paeans to local weed dealers, trippy marshmellow-stepping horns, rollocking studenty drinking ballads and accidental jams-turned epiphanies. I saw the boys back in 1999 at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre, where, funnily enough, Gomez were supported by a little known band called Coldplay. It was a great gig that demonstrated the depth of this unique line-up of musicians – and it only cost a tenner! Just imagine…
Bring It On begins with the russet tones of Get Miles, a captivating progression through colourful Americana tones. Whippin’ Piccadilly is a jaunty and truly British tune, which, whilst appealing to a slightly more commercial faction, also shows the songwriting diversity within the group. Make No Sound is folksy and brilliantly minimalist, 78 Stone Wobble a febrile two-step with a killer hook, and Tijuana Lady, the immense album highlight, a shambling, psychy epic. That’s a song with an afterlife, that one.
Other highlights on a warm and somewhat fuzzy record include the fascinating Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone, the clumsy but endearing Bubble Gum Years, and the groovy, driving Rock-release of Get Myself Arrested. Here Comes The Breeze is a kind of back-country sonic Blues that provides a perfect platform for Ben Ottewell’s rusty, prematurely smoked vocal, Free To Run a Country soaked ramble, and Rie’s Wagon something straight off an indie-bleached, mysterious Spaghetti Western.
Gomez are a cult band. They’ve never attacked the charts or become famed personalities. In fact, they could all walk down the street unnoticed, which is remarkable when considering their achievements. Their legacy is in their sound; a whimsical, often strange, a little gauche but always compelling melting pot of beguiling influences.
You don’t win The Mercury Music Award without something special going down. Michael Kiwanuka won it in 2020, and if you follow my blog you’ll already know what I think of him. You don’t make a record like Bring It On without being inspired.
Check it out.
Top track trio:
Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone