By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Gomez don't have plans to check out the Magic Kingdom during their Orange County stay, singer/guitarist Tom Gray confesses with a chuckle. Then, more seriously, he asks, "What's the story on the venue there? I noticed it's on Disneyland Drive or something."
His curiosity is understandable. The English quintet has toured the States only a handful of times, often as the opening band on a slew of amphitheater gigs. I begin to explain they'll be playing the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, careful to add that despite its big-time name, it actually has really fantastic acousti—
"Downtown Disney?!?" he interrupts. His cheerful accent gives way to a fit of delirious laughter. "You mean, like, they have cartoon prostitutes and drug dealers walking around there?"
That Gray, whose band is responsible for creating some of the most day-dreamily narrative music of the past decade, immediately conjures an image of a street-walking Minnie traipsing through post-industrial, cobblestoned streets with the crack-pushing Mickey isn't surprising. In fact, given Gomez's ability to routinely turn lazy days on the town into trippy, three-minute celebrations of all things intoxicating and whimsical, it's even expected.
The band (including fellow singer/guitarists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell, as well as bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock) first emerged on the British music scene with 1998's Bring It On, a rocking, textured album owing more to Cream than the oft-absurd, retro-kitsch pop of, say, Blur. Combining Ottewell's thick, bluesy voice with a barrage of electric guitars and omnipresent percussion, the band immediately earned something of a roots-rock, throwback reputation. Their relaxed, 1970s-style feel proved successful, and later that year, they captured the U.K.'s esteemed Mercury Music Prize.
It helped, of course, that Gomez's songs are impossibly catchy, the lyrics forever embedded in your mind within one or two listens. From the bouncy, charming "Whipping Piccadilly" to the amusing sing-along chorus on "Get Myself Arrested" ("Got a haircut, got a silver tooth/Gonna get myself arrested/Got some friends in my BMW/Tryin' to get themselves arrested"), Bring It On is the soundtrack for those low-key Friday-night barbecues that turn into rowdy house parties, as well as those painfully hung-over Saturday mornings.
Now, after two additional full-lengths, an EP and a collection of B-sides (featuring a spot-on cover of the Beatles' "Getting Better" you may remember from the Phillips Magnavox commercials), Gomez has a new single, "Catch Me Up," and an as-yet-untitled album on the way. They've dropped the slightly more electronic—and political—sound of 2002's In Our Gun in favor of one that's "light-hearted . . . much faster and solid."
"It relates best to our first album, with a real rock & roll vibe," explains Gray.
When asked if the band had felt any pressure to return to its earlier, more classic-rock sound in the wake of the recent success of such arena revivalists as Jet and My Morning Jacket, Gray admits "art doesn't get created in a vacuum" and says that, "in parts, the album has gone in that direction." Still, he notes this has more to do with what the band is listening to now—John Cale, Prince, and Iron and Wine are currently in Gray's rotation—than with record-label marketing.
"When we first started out, there wasn't a lot of music out there that I wanted to listen to," he says. "Now there is. The process feeds itself that way."
Regardless, Gomez does have a commercial goal: to gain a bigger following in the States. "Things are going really well for us in America," he notes. "There's a grassroots type of support for us. We're doing better here than we ever have."
They even have a video planned for the first single, which Gray describes as "computer-animated, with some serious 3-D. There's a barn, a small barn and a fox. Very Loony Toons."
Whether there'll be a Disney theme for the follow-up clip, well, we can only hope.Gomez performs with Leona Naess at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Tues., 8 p.m. $24-$26.50. All ages.