Gomez is no one-trick pony; band returns to Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Gomez is no one-trick pony; band returns to Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesBritish rock quintet Gomez, with singer-guitarist Ben Ottewell, performs Tuesday at Belly Up Aspen.
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ASPEN – The British rock quintet Gomez titled their latest album, released a year ago, “A New Tide,” and it’s hard to decipher the reason behind the name. The album, the group’s sixth studio effort, reveals no obvious change in style or sound. The membership is steady, comprising the same five musicians who came together in northwest England in the mid-’90s.

It could be that Gomez was confirming an idea that has been with them from the beginning – that each song was supposed to come forth as something new, that each album was meant to sound fresh and different.

“That’s always the music that’s excited us – Beck, the Beatles – that weren’t particularly one thing or the other. They were experiments,” said Ben Ottewell, a singer-guitarist in Gomez. “I’m very tired of music that sounds all the same – an album with three songs that may be great, and six or seven that all sound alike.”

That’s not a criticism that sticks to Gomez. One song can make them sound like blues revivalists, digging around in raw 1920s Mississippi mud. Then there will be a burst of psychedelic noise and techno sounds, followed by a melodic pop song built around acoustic guitars.

Gomez has a built-in system for ensuring its music remains a mixed breed of blues, contemporary rock and laboratory experiments. There are three lead singers, and all five members of the group write, with particular preferences to how they operate. There are collaborators and solitary writers; those who work with traditional instruments and those more comfortable in the technological realm. (Ottewell says he isn’t comfortable with electronics, comes up with song ideas by messing around with the guitar, and likes to work with his bandmates.)

If Gomez were going to follow a formula, the obvious choice would have been to copy their debut album. “Bring It On,” released in 1998, was the surprise winner of the Mercury Music Prize, a top honor in the U.K. But Ottewell points out that the album set a template that embraced a diversity of sounds and ideas, and that Gomez has maintained that approach ever since.

“The early CDs go in a million different directions anyway,” the 32-year-old said. “That’s the point of the band, not to stay in one place. So it’s always the same, and always different.

“That’s what successful bands used to be like – the Band, the Beatles. There were always different things going on inside the band. I’m not sure when bands started being one singer, one sound. Maybe that came from Led Zeppelin.”

Not wanting to emulate Led Zep might explain why Gomez looked overseas for their influences. On the issue of whether band members were more inspired by the music of the U.S. or the U.K., Ottewell didn’t hesitate in his response.

“American,” he said. “I do like a lot of British artists, but it’s an American art form. But it’s been a great conversation going on for 70 years between the two.”

stewart@aspentimes.com


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