When Gomez sings the line from “Here Comes the Breeze” that goes, “There’s no shame in going out of style,” you have to admire the band’s wishful thinking; they obviously haven’t met many music editors or MTV programmers lately. But bless their reactionary heads anyway, because the young British quintet are among the most musically adept, ’60s-besotted tunesmiths in years, even if last Tuesday’s show at Irving Plaza was something of a snooze.
Americana, you may have heard, has become a genre unto itself elsewhere in the world, and Gomez is the down-home yet adventurous musical equivalent of American eclectic cooking. Like Beck minus the irony, Gomez creates ingeniously diverse music that, at least on record, overflows with studio-drenched psychedelic ointment. “Rie’s Wagon,” from their debut album Bring It On, for instance, is a nine-minute headfuck that sounds as though Radiohead had snorted the Beta Band.
Less a roots group than you may have heard, Gomez creates detailed orchestrations out of thickly layered acoustic and electric guitars and percussion, with keyboards and strings thrown in for texture. They have nice voices, too, and toss vocal leads around like a practiced b-ball team. They’re confident enough to dis both the rave scene (“Revolutionary Kind”) and the Black Crowes (“Rhythm & Blues Alibi”) but their lyrics are usually a little too ripe and drug-addled to decode.
Unfortunately, Gomez didn’t take nearly enough liberties with its music onstage. Songs that threaten to jiggle your living-room speakers another few inches apart sounded like RealAudio teasers for their CD selves (no, gravel-throated soul puppy Ben Ottewell did not reprise his TV-commercial version of the Beatles’ “Getting Better”). Perhaps all the guitar switching and cigarette smoking tuckered them out. But no guitarist should ever introduce a song as being a good one to dance to, as Tom Gray did. And when your big encore rave-up segues into “Not Fade Away,” well . . . . No, Gomez does not jam. —Richard Gehr
Blow-Up in Brooklyn
Hey girlfriends, does this sound familiar? You’re playing a stage where few females have played before. And the noise coming out of the monitors resembles the rumble of a concrete mixer. Half the audience is staring at you like you’re freaks— if they’re not staring at the TV in the back of the bar. The coup de grâce: the house lights keep blazing on midsong, an annoying coitus interruptor.
“Who does Suzi have to blow to keep those lights off?” Donita Sparks demanded two-thirds of the way through L7’s tension-driven set at L’Amour, the self-
proclaimed “rock capital of Brooklyn,” volunteering the services of guitarist-singer Suzi Gardner. L7 are no ingenues— having released three major-label albums, headlined with Nirvana, been on the cover of Spin, etc.— and lead throat Sparks does not suffer fools gladly. Still, two Sundays ago, it was as if the “Shove” (L7’s anthemic 1990 single, a WNBA anthem in waiting) that set girl rock rolling had never happened. The very fact that L7 was playing in front of maybe 150 people at this thrash-metal-mecca-turned-struggling-dive is a bad sign. Especially since the punk-funk of Slap-Happy, their new self-released disc (the band was dropped by Warner), makes Limp Bizkit sound particularly flaccid, Offspring like old farts. L7 looked weathered (except for vivacious fill-in bassist Janis Tanaka of Stone Fox), but songs like “Shitlist” and “Living Large” sounded as sharp-tongued as ever, and experience has turned Sparks’s nasal taunt into a muscular air-raid siren.
I mean, it wasn’t what you would call a good show, but it had the edge of something that still
mattered— maybe more than ever. Especially to those fans who made the trek from Manhattan— or the ones whose parents were waiting to pick them up outside. “Welcome to Brooklyn!” someone shouted after Sparks asked who she should blow to get that TV off. Fuck you very much. —Evelyn McDonnell
Songwriters never know what’s going to happen to their songs, but they can hope for the best. Shortly after Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser wrote “Heart and Soul,” it was one of America’s favorite melodies. A four-handed piano arrangement had become a
party-time staple, which was great for sheet music sales— and tunesmith royalties— but all the tandem plunking had vitiated the song’s heart and soul.
Until now— Phillip Officer is restoring the corny-but-sincere ditty’s basic elements during a current two-act “Hoagy & Noel” cabaret layover at the Laurie Beechman Theater. The method, used by the best cabaret performers when they’ve committed to revitalizing standards, is simplicity itself— soulful, heartfelt delivery. Officer has seized the opportunity to execute his valuable restoration, because he’s one of the few who’ve noticed this is Hoagy Carmichael’s centenary as well as Noel Coward’s.
What Officer— long, lanky but never louche— does for “Heart and Soul” he does throughout his songathon (Mark Hummel as the orchestra at the piano). Loping across a wide, craftily lighted stage and batting his graceful, substantial tenor around, he intones Carmichael’s “Stardust” as if it, too, is being sung for the first time. He also tosses off Johnny Mercer’s “How Little We Know,” which was mouthed by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” but sung by Andy Williams.
As for Coward, whose canon is being fired endlessly this season, Officer does a languorous version of “World Weary,” as if masquerading as the illegitimate offspring of Beatrice Lillie and Aubrey Beardsley. And he closes with Coward’s passionate “Come the Wild, Wild Weather,” tacitly proposing that when darling Noel wished, he also could be all heart and soul. —David Finkle