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With its first two studio albums (Bring It On and Liquid Skin) and an odds and sods collection (Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline), Gomez crafted a sound that was rooted in the bluesy and soulful grooves of '70s pop/rock but powered by a youthful energy and contemporary perspective. This approach helped the band nab the UK's coveted Mercury Prize on its first try in 1998. On its third album of new material, In Our Gun, Gomez seems intent on updating its sound in an effort to incorporate more disparate elements. Thankfully, the band attempts and achieves this end without abandoning its original sonic philosophy, resulting in an album that is a strange but satisfying pastiche of clashing sounds and ideas.

Without altering their basic foundation, Gomez throws in the cool, crisp rhythms of electronica while retaining the soulful hookiness that has distinguished its previous output and earned the group a press kit full of deserved accolades. Ben Ottewell's mellow croon gives "Rex Kramer" and "Miles End" that distinctive Gomez smolder and charm while the band shows off its ecstatic pop chops on the propulsive "Shot Shot" and the syncopated "Detroit Swing 66," which, combined with their new sonic horizons, make for an effective genre mutation. The moody title track starts off with Ian Ball in a quiet Nick Drake folk mode but slowly builds to a funky, techno-laden break that blips and phase-shifts to an illogical but totally appropriate butt-shaking conclusion, while the band exhibits a Devoish wave bend with the quirky "Ruff Stuff."

Even with its newfound interest in synthetics on In Our Gun, Gomez never loses sight of the natural sonic fibers that have garnered the band acclaim and slavish fans in nearly equal amounts in the past five years.

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Brian Baker

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