I’ve always wanted to know why the curse of the Mercury Music Prize never managed to strike M People. If it must stifle the careers of so many of the winners, why not take out that bunch of mediocre pop twonks? Why, instead, pull the charming tea cosy of public indifference over Damon Gough’s ears? Why take the glo-sticks of low charting singles and ram it up the Klaxons’ collective arse? Why put a stop to the potentially life-changing music of Ms. Dynamite… oh, no, that seems about right.
After a rapid rise and plenty of good old fashioned, non-Myspace hype, they unleashed ‘Bring It On’ on the somewhat flat music scene of 1998. Britpop has pretty much farted its last Menswear, The Verve and Radiohead had lowered the tone of the previous year and Jarvis Cocker was having a full-blown nervous breakdown set to music on ‘This Is Hardcore’. A cheery time it was not, and yet Gomez emerged with some killer singles and a seemingly unintentionally schizophrenic approach to recording music. If a certain vocalist suited a certain song they were on. If a guitar break led the song somewhere else, so be it. The hugely endearing naivety of their sound made for a wonderful debut record. You couldn’t move for people proclaiming Gomez as the next big thing. The music press had a field day and the Mercury Music Prize followed suit. Then it all went to shit.
The more textured follow-up record, ‘Liquid Skin’, which still sounds pretty impressive today, sold well but ultimately failed to build on the success of their debut and so set in a general sense of drifting that hasn’t yet left them. Sales started to dry up and, while the slightly stodgy ‘In Our Gun’ had its moments and their fourth album, ‘Split The Difference’, was a pretty spikey little guitar album, by the middle of the Noughties they’d been dropped. As it turned out, 2006’s ‘How We Operate’ ended up being one of their best records, but by now the public had lost interest and the band seem to have settled down to life as a band with a small but loyal UK following. In the US, things seem to be picking up a little, but that can wait for another day.
Listening to ‘Bring It On’ again in 2010, as I have been for the past week, I’m reminded of much fun everything is. I danced around the kitchen to ‘78 Stone Wobble’ and loudly bashed my feet around to the lop-sided drum pattern of ‘Make No Sound’. I hollered along to ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’ and ‘Get Myself Arrested’, as you do, but was also struck by how good the whole record is.
Unlike last week’s featured album, ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’, I can’t say I pay much attention to the lyrics on ‘Bring It On’. Ok, I bawl along to some of them like an out-of-tune lunatic with ADHD, but I don’t really know what I’m saying. This record is all about the sound, something Gomez have always been great at. The lumbering, old school rhythm and blues sound of ‘Get Miles’ and ‘Tijuana Lady’ were so at odds with the rest of the records sitting in the racks twelve years ago that they couldn’t help but sound great. However, having broadened my musical palette somewhat in the intervening years, these tracks still sound fantastic. More importantly, unlike so much Nineties music, they don’t sound tied to that decade. Forgive me for this kind of overblown statement, but some of these songs sound truly timeless. ‘Make No Sound’ has everything. A keening vocal, layer upon layer of finely crafted sound and rampantly repetitive lyrics. I won’t try and pretend that I knew that this choice would make for a thoroughly enjoyable week’s listening. I hadn’t played it for so long that I couldn’t really be sure what I was going to think of it. I suspect that it might sound a little tired and potentially even have a whiff of novelty about it. I was wide of the mark on all of those suppositions. It’s a wonderful album, right the way through and, while their latter day efforts aren’t always so successful and best approached with caution, I can happily urge you to dig this one out this weekend and enjoy. You’ll not regret it.