Review: Gaz Coombes – Gaz Coombes Presents… Here Come the Bombs
Published on May 9th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Since Rocksucker could scarcely have made our adoration of Supergrass any clearer than with this recent article, we’ll skip the long-winded intro and get on with the music at hand on Gaz Coombes’s astonishing debut solo album Here Come the Bombs.
“Bombs” kicks things off with lushly orchestrated, consummately crooned fare as grand and darkly luxurious as anything on Supergrass’s 2005 LP Road to Rouen, and all with a jittery electronic pulse thrown in for good measure. This then melts into one of the most emphatic, resounding hits of a ‘comeback’ single you’re ever likely to hear; “Hot Fruit” grabs you instantly with a dirty, swinging riff that gets bum-rushed into a straight rock beat, introduces a mean John Lennon harmony and generally electrifies as much if not more than anything that Gaz has been party to since “Richard III”. Consider that very high praise indeed.
What’s more, “Hot Fruit” makes superb use of Coombes’s belatedly mined electronics arsenal, keys twinkling, synths whirring and rushing with all the ingenuity that he’s always brought to his songwriting and singing. “Whore” maintains the already sky-high standards with that long-held Coombes knack for folding a big glam chorus melodically in on itself. This is craftsmanship worthy of prime Ray Davies, and it’s all such a treat in this thick, warm melting pot of that still-magnificent voice, sinister backing wails, sci-fi synths and a complete and utter inability to write a band song even if he tried.
“Sub Divider” continues the dalliance with electronic elements and jagged, unusual songwriting flourishes, vaguely recalling “Cheapskate” in its (albeit rather differently laid-out) approach to tension and release. It explodes, relinquishes and re-emerges as a fabulous cross between Blur-era Blur and the Supergrass of In it for the Money and 1999’s eponymous third album, big wonky guitar ascending heavenwards, feedback piled on top…and all over within three and a half minutes. This is fantastic, totally fantastic.
“Universal Cinema” rides a canny, almost Radiohead-like verse into a vast, stomping beast of a chorus, a supremely well-endowed one at that with all its sun-kissed psych-pop harmonies, Beatles-y backwards guitar and veritable foghorn of a fuzz bassline. You wonder, given what a talented band they were/are, why Supergrass didn’t experiment more in this way, but the blessed arrival of Here Comes the Bombs makes this delightfully a non-issue.
“Simulator” is solid gold, clap-along Gaz-pop that explodes into another shouty, sleazy stomp of a chorus, one which in this case sounds rather strangely like “Roygbiv” by Boards of Canada; it then escalates into a floaty, euphoric sci-fi bridge, stepping back down again into a chorus raised a key and then back into that awesome verse, which in retrospect gave no hint of what was to come. It winds down with distant sirens atop sleepy electric pianos, bringing it all to a close in just over three minutes. Phenomenal.
“White Noise” is almost drainingly beautiful. This is perhaps Gaz at his most wistfully elegant since “It’s Not Me”, his most hypnotic since “Shotover Hill” and “Eon”, and it’s tempting to once again reference The Beatles in order to emphasise the levels of songwriting sophistication and execution that have gone into this. That sad, breezy chorus of “I’m always trying to tell you that I’ve got problems that I can’t work out / I’m always trying to tell you that I get lonely and you’re all I got”…let’s just say that you might have a spot of ‘hay fever’ should it catch you at just the right/wrong moment.
The enraptured synths and clappy, catchy-uppy beat of “Fanfare” consolidates the notion that Gaz has taken to electro-pop with all the élan, sunny disposition, winning sense of melody and rightfully assured vocal delivery that he’s always brought to guitar-pop; the big glam guitars again evoke “Roygbiv”, although more in vague feel than as any kind of direct rip. And why not? It’s a heck of a feel.
With its pounding ’80s electro encircled and imbued with beauty (imbeaued?) by benevolent vultures of layered harmony, “Break the Silence” is the most ‘mood’ sort of track on the album, grooving on melodic sparseness in a way not all that dissimilar to “Kiss of Life”, while “Daydream on a Street Corner” does pretty well by its title – not to mention very well by its creator – being as it is a strikingly silly yet oddly beautiful synth mini the likes of which Blur might also have nailed circa Parklife/The Great Escape.
All of which leaves “Sleeping Giant”, so twinkly and cosmic, yet lent an open-air psych-folk icing with the kind of gentle ‘blown-mind’ vocal not hitherto associated with Coombes. “Calling me at laaaast”; I for one can’t recall hearing him sing in this way before, but it sounds great. The track takes on a dazzling beauty, one which would likely stun those not familiar with the scope of Supergrass’s back catalogue, just as it will likely stun many of those who are. It is after all – much like the album it caps – stunning.
There’s always a bit of trepidation when approaching the splinter releases of bands you love, but more often than not someone gets it really, really right. Stephen Malkmus got it right. Gruff Rhys got it right. Add Gaz Coombes to that list.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Gaz Coombes Presents… Here Come the Bombs will be released 21st May on Hot Fruit Recordings. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit gazcoombes.com or facebook.com/GazCoombesPresents.