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Published: 2007/03/21
by Mark Burnell

Gomez- Five Men In A Hut the Singles 1998-2004

Last year, Hut Records cashed in on Gomez’s newfound success from the breakthrough album How We Operate by releasing a Best Of double-album compilation. Months later, Hut is delivering the slightly belated US release of the companion DVD, and while the audio version was a veritable feast of rare B-sides and unreleased tracks tossed in with familiar singles that served as a perfect introduction to this most American of English bands, the DVD is more of a mixed bag.

Right from the start, Gomez were much feted as the “next big thing” across the pond, and while their debut album won the prestigious Mercury Prize, they never quite achieved the success many had predicted. Judging by the promo videos on display here, it seems as though Hut never really figured out how to market the band. The base of Gomez’s appeal lies in their strong songwriting and excellent vocal skills, both of which are showcased in the fine music on this disc, but sadly, the visuals chosen to accompany the songs are simplistic, at best, and at times, downright annoying. The videos for the three singles taken from Bring It On (“78 Stone Wobble,” “Get Myself Arrested,” and “Whippin’ Piccadilly”) seem to have been shot on a combined budget of 100 bucks and a case of beer, and apart from the novelty of seeing Gomez looking ridiculously young, there’s really no reason to recommend watching them.

The second album’s releases don’t fare much better either. “Bring It On” is actually pretty funny if you’re a Brit, as it recycles bit of 1960s public safety films, but the video will be quite bewildering if you’re not from the UK. Both “R+B Alibi” and “We Haven’t Turned Around” take a terrific, passionate song and marry it to horridly banal images. The latter is particularly embarrassing, presenting the band as lonely geeks eyeing hot chicks in bar— very rock and roll indeed. “Shot Shot” is an improvement, a straight band performance artily tweaked so the band members appear in either silhouette or sepia, and “Sound of Sounds” oddly shows the band being loaded one by one into a truck by a forklift while performing the song. The final three videos are all animated, and “Silence” is the most successful in its Yellow Submarinesque gentle psychedelia with the band looking sharp in pinstripe suits. Apart from this sole noteworthy effort, in all honesty, there’s nothing else among the promos that’s worth seeing a second time.

After sitting through the “official” videos, I was looking forward to what looked like
promising bonus material— a half dozen live tracks and a couple of interviews. The interviews are pretty much fluff pieces, although seeing the late, legendary John Lee Hooker giving a big thumbs up to the band is pretty nifty, and Gomez, themselves, have a nice line in self-deprecating humor. While the live performances are all quite good, the slowed down, soulful version of “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” complete with wild harmonica solo, is simply brilliant. The sound seems a little thin, especially in comparison to the pristine audio on the promos, and the camerawork is simply atrocious— seemingly shot by one guy with a hand-held home video unit with the auto-focus on the fritz. Gomez are an exceptional live band, and these live videos simply don’t do them justice.

This release is a huge disappointment, and it feels like the cash-in job that the audio version could have been but wasn’t. One day I hope Gomez will release a live DVD that captures the thrilling experience that the band provides on stage. In the meantime, file this under “For diehards and completists only,” watch the two good videos (“Shot Shot” and “Silence”) on YouTube, and save yourself some cash.

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