Review Summary: More pop-oriented than their previous efforts, yet a feel-good sing-along album ideal for lazy days and cozy atmospheres; for fans of David Gray, Travis, Damien Rice, and/or the Britpop genre.
With 2006's How We Operate
, Gomez opts for a mellow, sauntering style of pop. In previous efforts, the quintet's sound has explored genre mish-mash, mostly settling on a combination of indie rock, blues, and folk. Throughout their discography, the vocal duties are split between three members - Ian Ball, Tom Gray, and Ben Ottewell - and How We Operate
continues this trend. Instrumentally, the album keeps a moderate tempo, complete with an array of acoustic and clean electric guitars, keyboards, and soft, easy-going percussion. The end result is, for the most part, a feel-good, relaxing record that runs for a bit longer than it should.
Of the three vocalists on How We Operate
, Ottewell is by far the strongest, and it comes to no surprise that "his" songs are the better cuts on the album. Sounding a lot like David Gray
, especially on White Ladder
, Ottewell's vocals best complement the steady acoustic-driven instrumentation that Gomez employs best. The quintessential Ottewell-fronted track is the beautiful See the World
. Beginning with a brisk acoustic introduction that pops up a number of times throughout the track as a transition piece, Ottewell's soothing vocals enter inobtrusively - "Day-to-day, where do you want to be? . . . You seem like a soldier who's lost his composure; you're wounded and playing a waiting game in no-man's land, no one's to blame." The arpeggiated run turns to a bright chord progression in the choruses, with Ottewell shining the most. "See the world; find an old-fashioned girl," he sings, before sharing, "When all's been said and done, it's the things that are given - not won - are the things that you want." While the rhythm section hardly plays a role in See the World
, the acoustic guitars and mandolin are what give the song its heartbeat, and combined with Ottewell's vocal efforts, it is without question the best cut on the album.
Ottewell also sings on the title track, Chasing Ghosts With Alcohol
, Tear Your Love Apart
, and All Too Much
. The title track starts off with a percussive backbone, but eventually builds to a dynamic guitar-laden middle passage that is once again in support of the vocalist's efforts. "Turn me inside out and upside down and try to see things my way; turn a new page, tear the old one out, and I'll try to see things your way," sings Ottewell in the chorus, while the guitars give off a somewhat-Egyptian vibe. The added orchestral accompaniment adds yet another element of beauty to the track's concluding moments. While the last three tracks in the aforementioned list have a bit more crunch than the previous two, only All Too Much
does not fall victim to drab, uninspiring instrumentation, despite Ottewell's consistent vocals.
As for the other seven tracks, only Girlshapedlovedrug
and its thumping bassline, everything about the pacifying Charley Patton Songs
, and album closer Cry on Demand
's catchy instrumental transitions are memorable. This showcases a number of characteristics of How We Operate
: (1) Tom Gray is the weakest vocal contributor, (2) a number of bloated, ambiguous passages with dull instrumentation, which leads to (3) a feeling of a long-winded listening experience. Aside from some awkward feedback signals that trigger a change from acoustic to electric on the album, there isn't anything atrocious or hideous on the album; rather, the music is mellifluous and typically pleasing. However, clocking in at over fifty minutes, How We Operate
can lead to feelings of discursive, rambling experience due to some overly-stretched, unclear passages of songs or even entire songs on the whole.
To conclude, How We Operate
is a pretty pleasant album, perfect for lazy days and cozy atmospheres. The mixture of three separate vocalists - a longtime Gomez staple - again presents itself on the album, with Ben Ottewell being the strongest performer. Consequently, the tracks Ottewell contributes vocals to are the better tracks on the album; see See the World
for an obvious example. The acoustic and electric guitars, complemented with mandolin and keyboards, range from solid, strong instrumentation to anemic and boring. Meanwhile, the rhythm section is pushed lower in the mix, save for a couple rare instances on the album where the bass and percussion are highlighted. Further, the other two vocalists aren't as strong as Ottewell, and the differences are quite distinct. As a whole, there's a number of positives and a number of pleasant tunes on the more pop-oriented How We Operate
; however, the album does run longer than it should, and the sometimes-homogeneous instrumentation leads to a forgettable listening experience at times. In all, How We Operate
is a feel-good sing-along album whose stronger traits and tracks outweigh the weaker characteristics.
See the World
How We Operate
Charley Patton Songs
All Too Much