Aged nineteen , I wrote for 'R.O.A.R.', the King's College London student newspaper. On this tenuous ground I called Virgin Records to petition for tickets to a Gomez gig. A woman told me to stop by the office. There, she gave opened a cupboard and waved a casual hand at a stack of CDs: "Do you need the album?"

It was the first time I realised people would give me music, just for putting words to paper. Like the first hit of some dangerous drug, that 'Bring It On' CD was the gateway to a peripatetic music writing career that hasn't quite died.

Listening to the remastered 'Bring It On' that anchors this sprawling release, I am struck by how fresh its scruffy charm sounds, nineteen years on. The album reels, wobbles, and soars with more enthusiasm than expertise but that is precisely what saves it from hollowness. That, and grit of their feedback-soaked sound and Ian Ball's forty-a-day voice.

Gomez was eclectic in the true sense: they mashed up rock, root, blues and electronics before putting those pieces together became fashionable. What's more, they did so without studying the self-importance of their Britpop predecessors. Their bonhomie and rough finish was the ideal antidote to Blur's art-school mockney and Oasis's lairy egotism.

Their best songs vault the years: 'Whippin' Piccadilly' is a stoned electric jam redolent of dark pubs and city lights; 'Here Comes the Breeze' is lofted by an irresistible chorus and tethered by Ball's smoked vocals; while 'Get Myself Arrested' matches Beck's 'Loser' for disaffected, lo-fi swagger.

Even the dubious 'Tijuana Lady', a song notable mostly for the awfulness of the lyric: "I know that I'm no head honcho/But I'll keep you warm in my silky poncho" is forgivable on the basis that the band members were, well, kids.

Its youthful chutzpah was rewarded with the 1998 Mercury Music Prize. Which they survived to build a musical career that marches on. This four CD set, packed with live cuts, demos and thirty-five previously unreleased tracks, is the perfect way to celebrate how it all began.











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