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With a Bullet

Two years after becoming Britain's surprise It band, Gomez reclaims a spot in the empire.

"A lot of it's to do with really simple things, like the range of the song, what key it's in, what fits best...the rhythm of the song," Ottewell says. "Ian's a lot better rhythmic singer than I am, so with songs like that, I just let Ian sing it. But that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to go with what sounds best."

"What sounds best" seems to be a point of contention between critics on both sides of the pond. While the majority of American reviewers have shown slavish devotion, British scribes have been mostly underwhelmed with Gomez's latest.

"There's a bit of ill feeling toward this album in the British press, but nothing really savage yet, so that's good," says Ottewell. In fact, the biggest criticism of Gomez so far is that its music is the emotional equivalent of junk food: There's nothing of real substance for sentimental types to chew on. Indeed, with songs like "Whipping Piccadilly" (about going to a Beck concert and whacking a shoelace against the Piccadilly train-station sign), "Tijuana Lady" (with its nonsensical lyrics like "enchilada desperado days") and "Ruff Stuff" ("Come back/I've been hangin' around in smack bogs, baby"), Gomez isn't exactly exploring the same territory as its tear-soaked countrymen Radiohead and Starsailor. But the criticisms don't bother the band much.

"We don't really listen to [the critics]. It's not going to change who we are or how we make music," says Ottewell. Besides, the boys have greater challenges to face. "Getting over hangovers rates pretty high. And football matches within the band. A member of our crew broke my toe in a challenge." (As he says this, a crewmember duffs a football at his head.) Come to think of it, it would seem incongruous for a band so committed to having a good time to churn out weepy paeans to love lost or the futility of urban existence.

For the time being, however, Gomez is committed to the road. The band is currently touring in support of In Our Gun, providing a rare chance for American fans to catch furious on-stage explorations of its material. Jam haters, take heed: This is no group of Dead wannabes. While a Gomez show does feature extended middle-eight rearrangements of some songs, it's all tightly controlled and surgically precise. And considering the band is already planning its next album, to be released sometime next year, what better place to explore new material than in the fertile realm of live performance? Sounds like a good time, indeed.

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