How We Operate
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For How We Operate, their fifth studio album, Gomez didn't set out to reinvent the wheel. Oh no. The British quintet just wanted to change the blueprint for a different sort of rounded object: Their own records. Gomez have been playing together for a decade now. But their friendships date back even further; Ian Ball (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Olly Peacock (drums) have been friends since they were still in short pants, while the rest of the lads rallied around as the duo progressed through academia. Drawing on their disparate tastes, which ranged from Nirvana to Woody Guthrie, Motown singles to barbershop quartets, they honed a one-of-a-kind sound that incorporated all their influences around their shared point of reference:
There's always been something a little mysterious about Gomez. Yet no one would mistake them for a dream-pop or shoegazer act. The UK quintet relies too much on acoustic instrumentation (violin, mandolin, harmonica, etc.) and rocks too hard to qualify. In fact, they've never been part of any "scene," British or otherwise. Their debut for Dave Matthews's ATO label, after live set Out West, isn't an about-face and it's unlikely fans will feel betrayed by the shift, but it does represent the most direct expression of their artistry yet. It's as if they peeled away a layer or two in order to reveal more of the pop band beneath the off-kilter country-rock trappings. No doubt producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) was an invaluable aid in that process: vocals are cleaner, arrangements tighter, mood more upbeat. How We Operate, their fifth studio recording, is Gomez on "Girlshapedlovedrug," (to name one of the more arresting tracks). Overall, it's a more cohesive effort than 2004's underrated Split the Difference. On the downside, there's more filler, like "Woman! Man!" with its "Sha-la-la-la woman!/Sha-la-la-la man!" chorus. Catchy? Definitely. Deep? Not so much... but Gomez has earned the right to let their inner Monkees come out to play. Plus, on the sprightly "Cry on Demand," they make fun of their "serious" image ("Boo-hoo/boo-hoo"), proving that this is one band that knows exactly how they operate. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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I love half this disc; the other half is mediocre. The half I love are all the songs sung by Ben Ottewal. (There is one song that he doesn't lead on that I like fairly well called Charley Patton Songs.)
Ben Ottewal has a deep, gravelly voice similar to David Gray or Tom Waits. His sound lends a more edgy feel to the tunes he sings, such as Chasing Ghosts with Alcohol, See The World, All too Much, How we Operate, and Tear your Love Apart. These all stand up to repeated listening.
However, numbers such as Girlshaped LoveDrug sound like the Beatles but less inventive and annoying. Reminds me of Robbie Williams, even though I can tolerate some Robbie Williams. Ben Ottewal's voice, on the other hand, is singular and shines. Ben's voice suits the music well; that's my opinion.
Gomez has a compelling sound when Ben Ottewal is singing. Try them out for a listen!
My personal opinion is that if they singled out the guy with the sexy voice and pushed him forward a bit more they would be rockstars by now. And that my friends, is what is wrong with the musical world. This band to me is exactly what rock and roll should be about. Every song sounds like a new experiment in sounds and like it was a joy to create among a group of friends who aren't that concerned with rock stardom. This allows to personalities to shine through in their playing without the 'look at me' syndrome that affects many bands that aren't this cohesive sounding.
Keep going Gomez! You guys are a true inspiration and a great rock 'n' roll band!