To celebrate twenty years since it was released, Southport's finest Indie band Gomez are re-releasing their second album, 'Liquid Skin'. The 2019 version contains a remastered original album, a live set (recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco) as well as previously unreleased demo tracks.
After an incredible couple of years that saw Gomez sign for Virgin, record and release their first album 'Bring It On', play Glastonbury and win the Mercury prize, the prospect of following up their debut must have been daunting. After beating, among others, Pulp's 'This Is Hardcore' and Massive Attack's 'Mezzanine', Gomez recorded their sophomore album and released it only twelve months after picking up the prestigious musical award for best album.
Following on from the band's quite incredible run, 'Liquid Skin' peaked at number two in the UK album charts and remains to this day their highest charting UK album. The freedom born out of the success that Gomez enjoyed after 'Bring It On' is deployed to great effect on 'Liquid Skin'. With more toys to play with, more time to craft their songs and the collective realisation that they were now a proper band having to record proper songs is evident; Gomez were no longer mates messing around, "hacking it together" in a garage back at home, they were bona fide songwriters and musicians who were being taken very seriously.
2019's Liquid Skin is lovingly remastered and re-packaged, with the two CD set containing an insightful document of how each song was arrived at, where the individual band members took inspiration from and just how some of the tracks came about. Without reading any of this booklet, it would have taken me to the end of time to know for instance that the band's much loved song ("probably" Ben Ottewell's favourite) 'Revolutionary Kind', was written around a drum machine the band didn't know how to properly use and was initially meant to sound as Orb-like as possible. Tom started writing the song whilst at university in Leeds around the time of 'Bring It On' but it was, at that point, unfinished.
Even though the band had moved on from the four-track recordings that brought them their initial success they still wanted to retain some of those "low-key" elements on the new record. 'Bring It On' is one of the stunning testaments to that train of thought. The laid-back, soulful, rasping vocal, funky breakdown and irresistible hook make it an album highlight then and now. Ian Ball says that he wanted to make the album as "wild" and "varied" as possible, "something that was a studio smorgasbord". He says "We'd sample everything we could" and when you listen back to 'Liquid Skin' twenty years on you can't help but be blown way by its sound.
'Liquid Skin' has a complete and cohesive feel that is timeless. If you knew nothing of this record or this band you'd struggle to place it on a time-line or even give it a country of origin. The musical maturity and ease with which the band transferred their skills to the studio environment is quite astonishingly displayed on 'Liquid Skin'. The smooth layered vocals on the Paris inspired 'We Haven't Turned Around', the seasick song with Tom's Pixies vocal 'Fill My Cup', and the reflective post break-up trauma of 'Rosalita' display the variety and creativity that is found throughout the album. The close-out track to the original album, 'Devil Will Ride', is where the band did not hold back, throwing everything into the vocoder enhanced mix including backing vocals, orchestration and brass just for good measure. The 7m epic remains a triumphant end to a cracking album.
Elsewhere on the super-sized re-issue the previously unreleased succinct demo of 'High On Liquid Skin' adds an extra layer of interest, as does the Ben Ottewell vocal version of 'Las Vegas Dealer'. The nine track live set recorded at The Fillmore is also a fabulous set of songs in it's own right. From opener 'Hangover', through 'Blue Moon Rising', a ballsy and bluesy 'Do's & Don'ts' through to the anthemic close out track 'Bring It On' Gomez are captured playing live at the top of their game.
The twentieth anniversary re-issue of 'Liquid Skin' is a timely reminder of just how good a band Gomez were, and still are. This album will no doubt delight fans but also attract a whole new set of listeners to their quite distinct sound.