Time Forgot: Gomez, "Bring It On"
Time Forgot is an ongoing feature series looking at albums, songs, EPs, performances, etc. that haven't gotten their due in a while.
It's hard to believe an LP that won the prestigious Mercury Prize - annual UK award for the best album - could ever be forgotten, but that is exactly what's happened to Gomez' phenomenal debut, Bring It On.
The reasons for this will always be a mystery to me. It didn't help matters that when Bring It On dropped in 1998, the Billboard Hot 100 was dominated by soulless pop like Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It," Backstreet Boys' "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," and Aerosmith's insufferable "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." On top of that, the US market wasn't importing Brit-rock into its radio airwaves quite yet, so in a pre-blog era, their only means of gaining popularity was word of mouth. Simply put, Gomez produced their best material at a very inopportune time when America wasn't ready for it. If this classic was released in 2003, it's hard not to imagine an alternate destiny for the English five-piece - one where they didn't abandon their signature raw, bluesy sound so early on in favor of run-of-the-mill, polished pop-rock that would plague their catalog after the third studio release, In Our Gun.
I discovered Bring It On in high school when, of all places, a buddy randomly came across them at a Barnes and Noble listening station. The infectious, experimental tunes quickly spread like wildfire in my friend group. It was a rare front-to-back record in an age of so many one-hit wonders. Ben Ottewell, one of two lead singers, absolutely howls his way through the opening track, "Get Miles," which still gives me chills. And Ian Ball, the more soft-spoken vocalist, shines on "Whippin' Picadilly," which is undoubtedly one of the most creative and fun songs on the album. But as good as those tracks are, nothing can touch the epic ballad, "Tijuana Lady," and one of the best songs of 1998, "Get Myself Arrested." The former has Spanish flamenco influence with gorgeous songwriting, and the latter is one of the best party songs to exist.
After wearing out my Bring It On CD in 1998, it was a pleasant surprise when they recorded the equally fantastic follow-up, Liquid Skin, just a year later. Both discs were played incessantly in my dorm and are two of the few albums from my college years that still matter to me. And as great as the studio songs are, they are another animal when performed in a concert setting. I had the opportunity to catch a handful of their epic live shows while still in their heyday - even once shoulder-to-shoulder with Matthew McConaughey, which is a story for another time, but let's just say the guy likes his hallucinogens as much as the next concert-goer and has an effortless charm with coeds.
Anyway, back to the music. Bring It On was one of the first records I tried to track down on vinyl, but to my dismay, I discovered it had never been pressed in the US. And to keep with the theme of bad news, both the original version and repress in 2013 commanded well over $100 on the secondary market. Not to be defeated, I kept an eye out for a copy, and as luck would have it, I found a seller on Amazon who was willing to part with the 2013 repress for $50. I ordered without hesitation, and it will always remain one of my prized LPs. And for those wondering, the repress was done with the utmost care, being remastered from the original analog tapes and sounds incredible.
Alright, enough talk. I'm going to throw this on the turntable right now, and if you're part of the reason this masterpiece was never given its due, enjoy some of the standouts below.