Gomez – How We Operate

How We Operate

Shortly after the public release of How We Operate, I had just listened through the album one evening and then was watching the season finale of a television favorite show. At the end of the first hour, just as things are beginning to hit a dramatic high point, I accidentally bumped the remote to my stereo. Or, at least I thought that’s what I had done. But, in fact, the title track of How We Operate was playing as the background music to the show’s dramatic season-ending events that I’m quite sure a good amount of Americans were tuning in to witness. It seems that Gomez may have achieved the ultimate goal for the band’s latest pop-oriented album.

Opening with brushed drums, synthetic strings, and the hushed vocals of Ian Ball, this was not the sound of Gomez as the band’s devoted fans might have expected. The slower-paced, stripped-down tune reaches for the acoustic guitar instead of the bells and whistles of some previous efforts. With more of a collaborate way of approaching the songs and three lead singers, Gomez decided to take a leap with this round and hire on an outside producer, Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies), to lend a hand with the band’s focus. Keeping things simple, clean, and well thought-out was key with the latest effort.

“Notice” opens the set with Ian Ball’s smooth voice and cheeky lyrics “I can tell you’re in denial / Get over it.” The softer, love song sound is a great contrast with the lyrics, and it displays the band’s talent for writing interesting songs. The distinctive fusion of Ball with Ben Otewell and Tom Gray during the chorus is such a perfect blend that you can’t help but think of some of the famous trios that have come before them.

The album does have its weaker moments in tunes like “See the World,” where Otewell sings with backup singers about seeing the world and finding an old-fashioned girl, or “Woman! Man!” with its “sha la la woman / sha la la man” chorus. The latter is quite unfortunate since it would be a good song if the chorus wasn’t so laughable. But even the less-than-stellar moments are hard to ignore with such strong vocals and clean instrumentals.

The title track and “Girlshapedlovedrug” are two definite stand-out tracks on this album. These are instant radio-hit numbers that are likely to turn the heads of new fans. The title track is lead by Otewell, and it will grab your attention from the second it comes on the scene with its sparse instrumentals that feature a banjo. I’ve always been a sucker for well-integrated banjo. “Girlshapedlovedrug” is the UK hit that has Tom Gray on lead vocals with this fun, upbeat song about a girl that drives him crazy but he just can’t live without. Again the lyrics continue to display the band’s personality, with Gray singing, “When this song is sung / Don’t let it color your opinion / That girl’s my life.”

How We Operate displays the maturity of Gomez in its fifth studio album. These guys aren’t trying to hide behind special effects or unnecessary layering. Everything has been stripped to the core, with the focus on creating a tight album from beginning to end. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when everyone is focused on a common goal.