As daft as Britpop may have been, it's one of the few fleeting trends in rock music to tirelessly fight back for reappraisal. Key players from the era have all but moved on and yet it's impressionable millennials who keep trying to flog a dead horse. Gaz Coombes clearly drew a line when Supergrass released Road to Rouen back in 2005 – a slow burning gem of maturity that arguably came a little too 'late in the day' to win back a sizeable audience. If you've not heard it, seek it out.
Still, moving on – what matters is this, Matador, Gaz Coombes' second solo effort is here, and it's about to win him a much deserved second wind of respect. Self-produced, self-performed and self-released on Hot Fruit Records, this authoritative 39-minute-album presents an artist in rude health, channelling inspiration and style both new and old to great effect.
Opener 'Buffalo' tears Matador wide open - an immediate and downright magnificent track that has Gaz stretching his songwriting muscles in a way only the man who wrote 'Sun Hits The Sky' could do. Monolithic drums, staccato synth and a chorus to die for – it's a definitive start to an album that treads a wide range of emotion and sound.
The first and only real wobble comes with the politically charged 'The English Ruse', an uncanny musical emulation of 'Month of May' by Arcade Fire that has Gaz turning in his best Win Butler impression - albeit unintentionally. 'The Girl Who Fell To Earth' follows with an ethereal ode to lovelorn affection : - “how I wish we could start over / you wear your elastic heart on your chewed up sleeve” sings Gaz to his muse, a girl of extraordinary allurement who seems far more invested in her love of science than his desperate gaze (either this, or it's actually a song about an alien...).
Mid cut 'Needles Eye' brings the record firmly back into anthemic territory with Beverlei Brown and Faith Simpson lending their choral pipes to the proceedings. It's a sure fire highlight rich in psychedelic experimentation, elevated further by smart vocal sampling and cryptic lyricism. 'Seven Walls' continues the trend of coupling introspection with an almost apocalyptic pay off. Co-written with his wife, the song is a nostalgic ode to the intoxicating moments of their young relationship. “Cause the night is ours / so don't step on the cracks / cause I love you tonight / so don't step on the cracks / cause I want you tonight” screams Gaz over the astonishing outro and one can't help but feel there's a whole lot of catharsis being unleashed through these simple but effective words.
Matador is a precise work of outstanding talent. While it may recycle the emotive wild card a little too often for some, any keen ear will be able to tell you this isn't some half baked solo project. Vital, urgent and impassioned – Gas Coombes has written the record he always deserved a chance to make. Forget Britpop, forget 'Alright' and forget what you think you know about the guy – just listen.
8Ben Philpott's Score