Proof That Gomez Do, In Fact, Rule The Universe

Plus they're young and British! What more could you want?

There is nothing more difficult for a band than making a follow-up to a

tremendously successful debut album. Great debuts are usually fueled by a

lifetime of experience and recorded with a maximum of enthusiasm and a

minimum of interruption. The pressure to repeat the magic under public

scrutiny can destroy even the most promising artist.

On Liquid Skin, Gomez pass the sophomore test with flying colors,

though fans had plenty of reasons to be anxious. After all, Gomez emerged

from nowhere only last year with a debut that sounded like that of a group

of well-traveled American Southerners, rather than one from five Northern

Englishmen barely out of their teens. With critical reactions proving

appropriately euphoric, Gomez went platinum in their homeland and won

accolades around the globe.

Returning to the studio before the dust could settle, Gomez have clearly

worked hard to maintain momentum. Indeed, the only real criticism to be made

of Liquid Skin is that it occasionally sounds a little forced.

Singing vocals through toilet rolls and using

electric guitars as drum microphones are hints at the intensity with which

the band has attempted to vary its sound while staying true to its organic

nature.

But at their simplest, Gomez continue to come across like the wisest of old

men. The musically restrained "Revolutionary Kind" (RealAudio excerpt) is a thinly veiled attack

on dance music. And on "We Haven't Turned Around" (RealAudio excerpt), Ben Ottewell sings as

sweetly as Neil Young did during his Harvest Moon phase, before the

chorus opens up into the yearning lament: "So you want to spin the world

around." The music appears to do exactly that.

More complex is the single "Bring It On," with electric guitar that sounds

like a synthesizer, a drum machine that pounds eerily and the trio of

talented singers (Ottewell, Ian Ball and Tom Gray) each taking on different

lines of the verse. "Fill My Cup" features a fuzzy bass that eventually

gives way to acoustic piano and guitar arpeggios routed through separate

speakers before those dreamy vocals take control. The magnificent finale,

"Devil Will Ride" (RealAudio excerpt), makes use of the currently hip vocoder, but its string

arrangements refer back to psychedelic-period Beatles.

A more dense album than its predecessor, Liquid Skin may prove too

complex for mainstream American tastes. But as proof that Gomez' debut was

no flash in the pan, and as evidence that young groups can follow up early

successes if allowed to do so quickly and confidently, Liquid Skin is

nothing short of a triumph.