Playing it safe shouldn’t sound this great After winning the Mercury Music Prize in 1998 for its debut, Gomez has gradually had more success in the U.S. with each progressive album,
even as the band’s critical and commercial cachet back home in England has eroded. Both trends can probably be blamed on a smoothing out of rough edges, causing early fans—who flocked to the fuzzy guitars, growling vocals and Waits-ian sound collages—to wince at the more conventional pop/rock of recent albums. While the mostly mid-tempo, mostly acoustic continues the trajectory from college rock to radio-ready adult alternative, Gomez has yet to succumb to anything resembling blandness. The album’s best songs are its most experimental, which will continue to frustrate those who want these Southport boys to more frequently embrace the strange. “If I Ask You Nicely” begins with double bass and snaps before high-pitched organ veers the song into left field. “Win Park Slope” is all slide blues and muffled darkness. And the fuzz returns on “Airstream Driver,” a quirky, catchy song that should thrill Gomez fans old and new.Watch Paste's video review of this album here.Listen to Gomez on MySpace.