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How We Operate
ATO Records

Taken song by song, Gomez has always been a band that stretches genre and sonic boundaries without hesitation, moving chameleon-like from one bit of music to the next with hardly a look both ways before crossing melodic streets. On their new release, How We Operate, the band seems to have calmed things down a small bit, focusing in on a narrower spectrum of sound, without losing that inimitable spark that is distinctly Gomez. This narrowing phenomenon is very conscious the first couple of listens to the record, there seems to be none of the now-expected jumps into sounds that make no sense with the rest of the record, regardless of their sonic perfection and joyfulness. On the first few listens to How We Operate, there doesn't seem to be any songs like "Catch Me Up" - those Gomez songs that somehow make sense for this band, even though the sounds are so weirdly off-center for the modern musical world. Upon further listens, the album seems to come together into a tight unit, seeming much more cohesive than their previous efforts, and then the gems of uniqueness start to come forth.

How We Operate begins with the softer sounds of Ian singing gently over acoustic guitar and off-beat organ on "Notice". The song is sort of low, and sets the tone for the record, especially the first few times one listens. "See The World" finds Ben crooning over a gently jangling guitar line and somewhat boppy rhythm - the kind of song that is perfectly suited to those first few magical days strolling along a late Springtime beach, a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean and cleansing everything it touches of stress and worry, leaving only the feeling of clean and new-born joy. By the time "How We Operate" kicks in, there is already a vague familiarity with the record, and the banjo and mandolin arpeggios starting off the title track do nothing to distance that vibe. Finally, though, here is a song that begins to have the trademark dynamic ever-changedness that pervades so much of Gomez's music. Instruments stop and start, always returning to the basic acoustic instruments, but meanwhile incorporating e-bowed counter-melody lines, booming bass guitar, and darkly distorted electric guitar riffs. "Hamoa Beach" begins to build in the groove elements of the band, building on a simple warbling keyboard line that sets the pace for the track and incorporating many trademark Gomez hippy-isms, especially the lyrical content: "That's just the fear talking/ don't let it take you like it nearly took me, fear/ don't let it fool you like it nearly fooled me, fear." - all of this with a heavily vibing bassline that just pulses throughout your body as you listen.

Channeling the spirit of Neil Diamond, Tom takes vocal duties on the brilliant "Girlshapedlovedrug"… a song that is sure to have you pushing repeat over and over, trying to decipher exactly what he may be speaking about. Bouncy music and weirdly Revolver-Beatles-ish lyrics make for a great song, on par with any of Gomez's greatest moments. Finding slide-guitar blues and shaping it over Garth Hudson-style organ riffs, "Chasing Ghosts With Alcohol" is a slowly reflective trip that transforms into a brilliantly noisy symphony, which gives the band a chance to be as sloppy and as keen as they wish to be, all at once. Playing up on the same rhythmic bits as so much of today's crap-rock - those bands that make new wave garage rock sound bad by mixing in disco beats - Gomez shows that they can make those "hep" sounds sound so much better than their contemporaries by diverging from the basic patterns and mixing in better drums, more organic vocals, and altogether more inventive dynamic changes. "Charley Patton Songs" is a missed-love song, a song of searching for something that is highly elusive, all to a low-beat and lushly padded instrumentation filled with beauty and a strangely tense calm. "Woman! Man!" finds the band getting back to their Beatles roots once more for measure, with very nice vocal arrangements over a pseudo-neo-Victorian sounding tune that transports the listener to a simpler and better time. "All Too Much" is one of the darkest and most dynamic tracks on the record, finding its way from a one guitar and vocal tune to a densely layered chorus of guitars and throttling rhythms that drops right back out to simplified near-country loveliness.

By the third listen to the record, I am profoundly affected by "Cry On Demand" - the song that somehow transcends all the other greatness on How We Operate with its simple and sing-songy lyric thrown down on top of a music that stops and goes, alternates rhythms, and involves so many strange noises that it can't help but pull the listener in one hundred percent. The world could come crashing down while this song plays and I'd never know the difference. The lyrical melody is an exercise in perfection and the harmonies are precisely laid out and meticulously executed, transcending anything the band has ever done before. I re-iterate what I said years ago in my first review of Gomez - this is the music that The Beatles would most likely be making if they were a young band in the 90's/2000's, assuming they were still the band that they were. The album wraps with the slow and warbly "Don't Make Me Laugh", a song that features delicate pizzicato strings and a cool slide guitar that melts away tension and leaves nothing but the bliss of another fine record from one of the greatest rock bands of all time… and leads the hand to the play button on the CD player once more.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Notice
2. See The World
3. How We Operate
4. Hamoa Beach
5. Girlshapedlovedrug
6. Chasing Ghosts With Alcohol
7. Tear Your Love Apart
8. Charley Patton Songs
9. Woman! Man!
10. All Too Much
11. Cry On Demand
12. Don't Make Me Laugh

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