Following on from 2012’s ‘Here Come The Bombs’, the second LP from ex Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes sees him settling into life as a solo artist by breaking down the sort of boundaries that would have proved more difficult for a guitar trio.
Experimenting and moving forwards while never misplacing that gift for brilliant songwriting, ‘Matador’ is the most vital and consistent Coombes record has delivered in at least a decade. Aside from a few contributions from drummer Loz Colbert and keyboardist brother Charlie Coombes, all the instruments on the album were played by Gaz himself, and it looks like this new independence and increased creative control has paid off.
Piano chords hang over glitchy rhythms on the opening ‘Buffalo’ before tumbling into a grand wallop of a chorus, and on the sparse, slow building earworm ’20/20′, flourishes of electronics evolve into a busy, authoritive groove. The European flavoured energy bolt ‘The English Ruse’ channels the influence of Neu! and Can, while the dreamy swoon of ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth’ pairs elegant acoustic guitars with sweeping melotron strings, and spacious highlight ‘Detroit’ runs on an easy moving kinetic pace, countering dark lyrics with dazzling melodies and the anthemic power of its magnificent chorus.
Rolling out some psychedelic gospel funk, the intricately layered ‘Needle’s Eye’ delivers an uplifting chorus reminiscent of ‘Young Americans’ era Bowie, while the introspective piano and cinematic tones of the carefully textured ‘Seven Walls’ play brilliant accompaniment to the hungry, yearning quality of the voice. ‘Oscillate’ takes a trip through eastern percussion and psychedelic atmospheres, while the progressive confidence of ‘On The Wire’ sees more stellar melodies tied to a refreshing backdrop of panicked drum loops and superbly placed chords. The intimate closing title track finds the sun setting on a fine record which builds something effectively focused out of a thriving array of diverse influences.
20 years after bursting onto the scene, Gaz Coombes is on a roll once again. [Rating:4.5]