The signs all seem to be there…band members living on separate continents, solo albums popping up, a lull in interest from the general public after over a decade of music making…surely the five members of Gomez were losing their creative drive after six studio albums.
But just a few months after Ben Ottewell’s debut solo release comes Whatever’s On Your Mind and the band has seemed to defy all odds and has come up with a collection of songs filled with plenty of energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness.
Incredibly the band still has its three main singer-songwriters, Ottewell, Ian Ball and Tom Gray along with bass player Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock. Although they started out in the English town of Southport, this disc was recorded in rural Virginiain the U.S.Their previous album, 2009’s A New Tide, found the quintet moving away from their jam-band instincts toward a more pop-oriented sound. That trend continues on Whatever’s On Your Mind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less interesting or musically satisfying that early albums like Bring It On or In Our Gun.
The false start that kicks off Options, the album’s first track in no way signals what is to follow. After the strummed acoustic guitar, a horn section chimes in after the first vocal line. It’s a bouncy, pop number with a wonderful chorus and it’s an exercise in classic songwriting. A honking sax shows up after the bridge while the bass and horns fade out to end the album’s first single. I Will Take You There fades up with a funky, loose vibe, electric piano and a myriad of musical twists and turns including a wiry guitar solo and a call and response vocal element. The horn section shows up again to pull the song in yet another direction. All this takes place in under five minutes. That’s the beauty of this album, the band has written wonderfully concise pop songs, then they have their way with them musically and leave them gasping for more in a relatively short time.
Ben Ottewell sings the title track, a slow, stately piano-based tune with a lush string arrangement. “Whatever’s On Your Mind…just let it go”, proving he didn’t save all his good stuff for his own album. In fact, Ottewell sings four of the album’s ten tracks including another string-laden ballad, the bittersweet Our Goodbye and the edgy Equalize another track that takes off in unexpected musical directions. Only Song In My Heart with its electronic riff and drum machine seems forgettable.
The album closes with X-Rays which begins with a droning electric guitar and features what sounds like an unleashed cello adding to the mix.
Thirteen years after their Mercury Prize winning debut album, Gomez are proving they still have plenty to say and have found new and unexpected ways of saying it.
Click here to listen to I Will Take You There from Whatever’s On Your Mind:
Whatever’s On Your Mind track list:
- I Will Take You There
- Whatever’s On Your Mind
- Just As Lost As You
- The Place And The People
- Our Goodbye
- Song In My Heart
- The Wolf