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GAZ COOMBES

matadorGAZ COOMBES

Matador
Caroline International

Mention Supergrass and smiles will launch across faces – “those cheeky Britpoppy rapscallions,” people will say, “they were such fun!” Frontman Gaz Coombes has stepped out from behind the band he’s fronted for many years for Matador – his second solo album following 2012’s Here Come The Bombs, and it’s a very different vibe from the ‘Grass.

Matador is less of a guitar album than anything Supergrass did – Coombes has said he started most of the songs using loops and old analogue synths he’d accumulated. Take The English Ruse as an example: arguably the most immediate and standout track on this album, at first listen it buzzes and whirls about like an electropop classic-in-the-making. Listen a couple more times and the melodies reveal themselves – a hint of Kasabian, perhaps, a nod to the distant shadow of Kraftwerk even. It’s a song to return to over and over again, one that shows more of itself each time.

The Girl Who Fell To Earth is led by a delicate acoustic guitar and rising movie-soundtrack orchestration. Lush and pretty, there’s no mistaking Coombe’s vocals, but wow – when did he become so grown up? Lovely.

Elsewhere tracks such as Needle’s Eye and Seven Walls are anxious, dark, almost claustrophobically dense. ‘Don’t step on the cracks ‘cos I want you tonight’ Coombes sings on the latter track, and that theme of expressing fears, longing and grief is consistent throughout.

On the closing title track Coombes implores, ‘they want blood, they want your heart and soul/ but the hardest fight is the one you fight alone’, and maybe it’s time for him to fly solo for a while, to defy the expectations of his former band and, in his words, to ‘fight like a matador’.

As such, Matador isn’t a bouncy pop album like those his former band released. Instead it’s a thoughtful, nuanced collection of songs from a master craftsman delving deep within, and for that reason alone it’s compelling listening.

3.5 stars

SHANE PINNEGAR

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