Whereas the majority of the mid-90s indie scene championed loud guitars, typecast frontmen and most things reductive, history shows that a fraction of artists held firm in an attempt to shield culture from sheep dipping and ‘ladism’.
Spurred by Supergrass with ‘In it for the Money’, driven further by Blur (‘Blur’) and propelled big time by Pulp (‘This is Hardcore’), several bands deserve credit for enduring commercial failure and social rejection in order to protect originality in guitar-driven music.
As 1998 would go on to prove, the rebel scum would pay a high price for going against the mainstream. However, their public flogging would make it easier for guitar bands to take risks, incorporate electronics, and create music that wasn’t filled with 12 overdubbed guitar solos.
Gomez, with ‘Bring it On’, may well be the band who benefited most from these sacrifices. Blues-driven, lo-fi, and lightly electronic, their music went platinum, won a Mercury, and became accepted by both the pop and indie kids. They became the indie band which the mainstream was allowed to like.
20 years on from its release, and with a sold-out tour, those indie kids, and that album are back. More than that though, they’re back with a set of songs which feel more relevant than they ever did.
Part nostalgic, part celebration, the ‘Bring it On’ tour takes the original songs, jams some of them out (‘Tijuana Lady’, ‘Rie’s Wagon’) and re-fits them into today’s world. Most impactful with this re-contextualising is Ben Ottewell’s blues vocal and the way he makes the songs fit more with a man nearer 40 than 20, ultimately providing the songs with an air of reflection and melancholia. When he sings about a time not too long ago, it’s hard not to imagine that these songs were always meant to be played at a date much further in the future.
Gomez came, they played their album, and they reminded us of a time when this would never have been possible – yet it was. And because of the past, we can appreciate the present.