GOMEZ Split The Difference (Deleted 2004 UK 13-track CD album and the first to be produced by an outside source namely Tchad Blake who has twiddled the knobs for Tom Waits Al Green Peter Gabriel and Crowded House. This just oozes layer upon layer of bluesy rock riffs and trademark vocal harmonies exhibited in the fantastic singles Catch Me Up Silence and Sweet Virginia. Complete with picture sleeve booklet and smiley face picture disc! CDHUT84)
Split the Difference arrives more than five years since Gomez's Mercury Prize-winning debut, yet finds the British five-piece working firmly within their well-worn formula. So, it's pretty much business as usual here, though they've turned up the 60s psychedelia up a bit ("Silence", in particular, sounds tailor-made for the Blow-Up generation). But old fans will be happy to hear the same blues-tinged, three-part vocal harmonies that continue to distinguish Gomez from their peers. "Me, You and Everybody" is a laid-back singalong that's mellow without the melancholy, while "Catch Me Up" bounces along at a jaunty pace.
At its best, Split the Difference almost catches some of the glory of Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Where Ya Going?", for instance, has a dirty, sliding guitar riff that's as close to swamp-ridden as five English boys can possibly get. This is something that needs to be both encouraged and developed in later releases, and proves that Gomez are not a band to be written off yet. --Robert Burrow
Five years after that worryingly early Mercury victory (for best album) Gomez have had their share of knocks.
For a start, no one likes precociousness, and a young, student band that seemed so steeped in blues lore and with a singer (Ben Otewell) whose voice belied his tender years, were always going to be swimming against the tide. Their tricky time signatures (courtesy of powerhouse Olly Peacock - on rattling good form here), mastery of their instruments and the fine art of layering them, was always liable to set them apart from their less imaginative peers. Yet they fell prey to classic third album syndrome, with In Our Gun emerging as an unsatisfying collection of styles that signalled a band who'd become lost in the minutiae.
18 months locked in their studio with producer Tchad Blake has had the required effect. The songs return and gone is the half-baked amalgamation of in-jokes and dubwise meanderings. Split The Difference rocks, and rocks hard and tender...
This isn't to say that the Southport school chums have forsaken their wonderful bag of tricks. Let's check them off: Firstly, Gomez have never tired of the cranked up intro with Otewell blaring a single note like a possessed foghorn over the top. Sure enough "Where Ya Going", does just that. Next up is the aforementioned rhythmic intricacy and playfulness. Check ("Me You and Everybody" - which veers dangerously close to Radiohead-style prog). And lastly there's the ability to turn their hands to tunes that would break even Margaret Thatcher's heart. Yup; all present and correct in "There It Was" and the stand-out track "Sweet Virginia".
The latter demonstrates how the band have overcome creative ennui by going back to the basics of how to write sensitive, grown-up songs and then backing them up with some of the best ensemble playing they've committed to tape yet. The vocal harmonies alone are nape-tingling in the extreme.
Add to the mix the usual dollop of humour (just who is being dissed in "Chicken Out"?), and only one track that coasts (the standard-Gomez-blues shout-by-numbers "Meet Me In The City"), and you've got one of the finest releases of the year so far. If you were one of those people who wrote them off two years ago, it's time to get listening again... --Chris Jones
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window