Bold First Steps

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Perhaps British non-Brit-pop outfit Gomez should have instead titled its debut Pour It On, Slowly. It's just that kind of double-take album. Based equally upon cocky '70s classic blues-rock and those underdog, underwhelming lo-fi sounds of today (with a hint, of course, of pure Beatle extract), Bring It On is nevertheless its own unsettling concoction.

The 21-year-old British midland "kids" who comprise Gomez could not possibly know, for example, the intimate details of clandestine, south-of-the-US-border rendezvous, but they craft a believably bittersweet, dirty Eagles scenario in "Tijuana Lady." The band's dual and alternating singers Ben Ottewell and Tom Grey 's takes on the lyrics intersperse soulful and pained with just recently deflowered-poetic and hang the listener on their every just-detailed-enough narrative. And, even if you don't believe the words, the sounds, grooves and feeling are evocative enough to take you there. Much like Gomez's late-lamented American counterpart-apparent, Jonathan Fire*Eater, the quintet is stacked with natural-born vocal and musical storytellers who care not whether you believe the veracity of their tales, so long as you lock in sonic step for the four or five minutes it takes to roll them off their tongues or strings.

The adventure here is in uncovering, from track to track, what surprises the band will throw your way. That kind of invention and lust for music is all too rare -- at least among major label records. Gomez employs the basic guitars-drums-organs lineup -- with some expertly executed sampling and analog synth augmentation. But the members have obviously done their homework in crafting an original patchwork of rock's past and present to create the same sort of dreary debauchery that the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays once made oh-so-romantic -- yet without all that rave-ish, heart-on-the-sleeve, E-fueled, underlying optimism. And that's a good thing!

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