ALBUM REVIEW: Gaz Coombes – Matador | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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threeReleased: Monday 26th January

Hot Fruit Records

Find out more on Gaz Coombes’ official site

 

 

Ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes’ second solo album, Matador, is refreshing because it avoids the obvious traps into which solo albums by British ’90s frontmen often fall. It isn’t a pale imitation of former glories – there are no Pumping On Your Stereo Part 2s here – but it isn’t an indulgent reaction to hits like that either. Rather than copying his peers and making either an acoustic album or a baffling opera, Coombes has made an album that takes his old songwriting powers and does something exciting with them, incorporating choirs, Krautrock and synths.

Almost all of the songs are decorated by electronic burbles and bleeps, so much so that when the first song began I was half expecting Thom Yorke to start warbling over it, and late-period Radiohead is quite an accurate comparison for the way a lot of these songs mix electronic drum-beats with more organic guitar and piano sounds. The excellent The English Ruse has the kind of Neu! beat and synth sweeps that many bands, such as the Manics and the Horrors, have become interested in recently, and it explodes at the end into a brilliant effects-laden guitar solo – probably the album’s best moment. There’s a mild German fascination going on, aptly for a man whose band recorded their last album at Berlin’s Hansa Studio: the cover even replicates that of David Bowie for the Berlin-recorded Heroes, with Gaz Coombes wearing a leather jacket in black and white, making his hands look huge like Bowie did.

Hearing Matador made me want to go and seek out some Supergrass albums for probably the first time since they split up

Along with the synthesizers and electronics and guitars, another key instrument on Matador is Gaz Coombes’ underrated voice. Just as in Supergrass, it is deceptively versatile – as comfortable singing the gorgeous The Girl Who Fell To Earth as it is belting out the chorus to the widescreen opener Buffalo, or impersonating Bolan, not for the first time, in the outro of 20/20. Hearing Matador made me want to go and seek out some Supergrass albums for probably the first time since they split up; not because I wanted to listen to those instead but because it reminded me how much I liked Gaz Coombes’ voice and vocal delivery in the first place.

It must be said, however, that the album does suffer a slight dip towards the end, the songs not quite being strong enough to shine through over the keyboards and krautrock beats. These all complement each other better in the first half of the album, such as on the great and surprisingly futuristic-sounding outro to Detroit. Though there are plenty of very good songs, this decline in quality stops Matador from being quite the all-round triumph and comeback it could’ve been. What it is though is an always decent, sometimes great album that is surprisingly adventurous and made me re-realise how good Gaz Coombes can be.

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