Back before The White Stripes got it bang on, Southport’s Gomez made a clumsy stab at combining modern alternative music with the blues, simply by having one of their three singers – Ben Ottewell – sing like the twenty-something reincarnation of Howlin’ Wolf, while the rest of them set about being Badly Drawn Boy.
Whatever’s On Your Mind
Merseyside alt stalwarts don’t know their art from their Elbow.
Despite winning them the Mercury Prize in 1998, it was a painfully ill fit, and one sidles up to this seventh studio album wince-ready, waiting for Ottewell’s foghorn bellow like a poltergeist crash in Paranormal Activity. After two blessedly sweet alt folk numbers – Options and I Will Take You There – akin to pastoral pop takes on Mumford & Sons, Ben arrives for the title track... and isn’t too blustery and offensive actually.
Though he drags the orchestrated Our Goodbye into dated Joe Cocker territory and makes electro-rocker Equalize sound like Tom Jones covering Pendulum, his voice has mellowed as if cask-matured to meld far more smoothly with Gomez’s lush folktronica. Unfortunately, this just serves to highlight the gauzy mundanity of the rest of the band, once drowned out by Ben’s laughably grizzled larynx.
The result is an intangible pleasantness that really wants to be Elbow.