Hitch Your Wagon

  • Artist: Gomez
  • Title: Bring It On
  • Released: 1998
  • Format: CD
  • Genre: Alternative/Roots-Rock
  • Beverage of Choice: Stone Tangerine Express Hazy IPA

Not to be confused with Selena Gomez, this is the bluesy roots-rock band from the UK that made my hair stand on end with the opening computer/tabla/guitar bars mix on the first track from their debut album under review here. Let’s call it a great first impression that was confirmed and cemented in place over time. My good friend and fellow music geek G.F. played me the opener “Get Miles” on a visit to England in 1998 and I was hooked; I’ve acquired all of Gomez’ music since then and remain as astonished by their virtuosity and range as at that first encounter.

Undeservedly relatively obscure in the USA, Gomez remain popular in their native country and deliver a great live show. This album actually beat out Massive Attack’s Mezzanine (previously reviewed) and The Verve’s Urban Hymns for the Mercury Music Prize in it’s release year, yet didn’t even chart in America. They have since (from around the mid-2000’s after Split the Difference was released) grown a fan-base here but I am yet to chat with any local acquaintance familiar with their music. Hopefully, this post will go a small way towards changing that sad state of affairs!

Kicking off “Get Miles“you get a slow burn from the instruments and then Ben Ottewall’s strange and yet familiar voice cuts into the head space with a bluesy timber and delivery. One of the band’s great strengths is having three accomplished vocalists on hand but Ottewall sounds like he grew up in a bourbon-and-smoke-pit-infused Southern state and, once you’ve heard him sing, you won’t mistake him for anyone else. The song grooves along and ups the intensity mid-track with harmonies, additional fuzz guitar riffs and tuba (tuba!) – I mentioned that this band was diverse right?

Jumping right into “Whippin’ Piccadilly” a simple acoustic riff sounds like an outtake from an Oasis session and then the band asserts themselves with percussion and synthesizer elements that are one of their signature sounds. The track has a loose feeling and 60’s vibe that’s in line with the hippy-ish sentiment in the lyrics.

Make No Sound” highlights Ottewall’s excellent voice again showing off range, depth and emotion. Very simple in construct it has a beautiful chorus with acoustic guitar and strings backing the soaring vocals. Great harmonies on the later choruses and cello add to the depth and add dimensional range to the tune. One of my favorites.

For a change in direction, I present “78 Stone Wobble” with a blues-influenced riff, psychedelic backing, vocal effects and obscure lyrics. With all the vocalists taking a turn on the mike the song is incredibly open and lush and yet intense and focused at the same time; weird Spanish sampled monologue, horns and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure.

Tijuana Lady” provides a solid minute or so of sampled, scratchy Spanish-timbered guitar and computer-generated percussive sounds jumping from ear to ear in the headphones and then abruptly into a clear, open and precise acoustic guitar and beautifully psychedelic/spacey vocals. The chorus is double-tracked left and right on the stereo mix opening the song up even wider. This is a great example of the band’s creativity, skill and ability to mix up genres and sounds all in one song – strange but compelling and achingly beautiful in expression and execution.

We’re just halfway through the album and already been rendered ecstatic by the musicality, expertise, expressionism and focus of this great band. The rest is just more of the same consistently high-value blend of laid-back yet intense, loose yet structured and genre-confused versatility. Stick with it through to the final track and you’ll have experienced and hour or so of a wonderfully conceptualized and executed modern musical miracle – an album that, with no fanfare at all, upped the ante for all serious musicians that followed.

If you like late 60’s Beatles, The Who, The Doors or any psychedelic blues at all listen to “Rie’s Wagon” and I’m pretty sure you’ll become an instant Gomez fan. Also pay attention to Olly Peacock’s drumming as he is a multi-talented genius, programming the computers and synths in addition to all things percussion. And then check out the rest of their discography (‘How We Operate’ is a great example of how the band’s songwriting matured, focused and got even stronger over time) for good measure. You can thank me later.

Published by Rick Adams

Husband, father, music lover

2 thoughts on “Hitch Your Wagon

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