It's a fact: Electro-pop and all things with a bangly synthesizer sound are in. Groups like Franz Ferdinand are reigning supreme, and even trusty standbys like Cake are hopping on the bandwagon.
The members of British group Gomez have been busy neglecting that trend. Their previous albums are chock-full of experimental electronic rock, but for their latest album, Split the Difference, Gomez surprised all by taking their sound in a decidedly different direction. The lads will be one of the last rock groups to perform at 32 Bleu before its Country and Western reworking.
"The whole purpose of the band is to veer off, and I like it that way," said Gomez singer-guitarist-keyboardist Tom Gray. "Whatever we feel like doing we just do. Every step has been a natural progression."
The versatile quintet is made up of Gray, Ben Ottewell (vocals, guitar), Paul Blackburn (bass, guitar), Ian Ball (vocals, guitar, harmonica), and the fantastically named Olly Peacock (drums). The fellows got together in 1998, recording a demo and immediately scoring a record contract with Hut Recordings, distributed by Virgin and EMI. All hail from Southport, near Liverpool, and are an unlikely bunch to agree on style: some are former metalheads, others were raised on Dr. John, Tom Waits and Marvin Gaye.
That diversity contributes heavily to their willingness to try something different. Split is a stab at neo-psychedelic Southern rock, sounding at once new and blessedly familiar. Vocals are contributed by Gray, Ball and Ottewell, each bringing an entirely new style to the mix.
"On previous records [like 2002's In Our Gun], it was a lot of sequencing and computers," said Gray. "We wanted to be dirty again, play visceral rock 'n' roll and have fun."
Having decided to abandon the bloops and beeps of electronica, the sound came about naturally. "I personally believe that originality is more rewarding than novelty. I guess that thinking affects my whole life. Deciding to change styles wasn't calculated. It was a knee-jerk thing, to want to make something harsher and bold. I love the record -- it's batty as hell, and all over the place."
That "batty as hell" approach might have come about because of their physical environment. The album was recorded in a studio in an old dreary warehouse on the Sussex coast, a rural part of England. The dearth of urban excitement propelled the band to creativity, writing and recording over 50 songs. Thirteen eventually made the cut.
Gray reflects fondly on the time. "It was pretty cold and awful, but it was our cold and awful. We're pretty proud of our little shithole," he said. When told that the rock-blues outfit The Black Keys also recorded their album Rubber Factory, in, well, a rubber factory, Gray laughed about the idea of broadening the concept of garage rock into something bigger. "Maybe it's a whole new sound -- factory rock!"
Over the years, Gomez has gained a reputation for being a must-see band to catch live. This, Gray says, is due to the fact that they're doing what they love, and audiences can see that. "I think people get it when they see us live. They see what goes into making the sounds they hear on the record, see us swapping instruments and having a damn good time. It becomes something really honest.
"Since day one we've been out to just have fun, and we've been kind of getting away with it for seven years."
-- Kara Luger
32 Bleu, 32 S. Tejon
Wednesday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m.
Tickets $18.50 in advance, $20 day of show