I had this lofty idea to construct an intricate piece connecting a band called Secret Shine (a new obsession) and their spiritual fore bearers Slow Dive, but what can I say? It just didn’t come together. It will eventually, but one late breaking item did come out of my initial research when Dean from the aforementioned Secret Shine told me he listens to a lot of Gaz Coombes. Of course this is a name I’ve heard many times, but just never took the bait. So I finally gave in and gave the man from Oxford England a go. Dude currently dwells in the artsy enclave of Brighton (yes, England still does have artsy enclaves), home to Secret Shine and two members of Gomez.
Well, it’s safe to say that Gaz does not disappoint. I never got into Supergrass (don’t shoot, anglophiles) but I love these two LPs all on Gaz’s lonesome, especially the latest, World’s Strongest Man.
And it’s one particular track, “Walk The Walk”, and it’s accompanying video that immediately drew me into to Gaz’s world. With a chunky bass line running counterclockwise with to Gaz’s soothing voice, the song is an intriguing study in dichotomy. The song itself might be political, but like with all the best protest music is could also be personal:
But don’t get hypnotized by the lie, It’s all gonna crumble under you, like when the wall came down, and there were no sides, baby you’re the one who can walk the walk
In the video a high stakes poker game is going down. There’s a dapper gentleman with tinted glasses who faces a nervous-looking socialite, sipping her tumbler of whiskey. The dealer deals the hand. Cut to: Gaz wearing a fitted white suit, black v-neck t, dark sunglasses, fedora and what must be his trademark sideburns. He lounges in a leather recliner. The woman gets up to refresh her drink and check her phone. At this point the screen splits four ways, with the dealer’s hand shuffling the deck in one panel, a drink in another, and the chips in the other. Another man with a close-cropped crew cut and shades joins the table. He wins and wins big. The other gentleman gets up and throws a right jab to the winner’s jaw. He is propelled backwards and remains hovering over the ground as the scene is rolling in heavy slow motion. He slams to the ground but in the next scene is coming back to the table while the other man smokes a massive cigar. The woman also returns to the scene, as a cascade of lighters moves to form a symbol. The next shot shows Gaz in the bright light of day walking the perimeter of a fountain. It’s all very well-crafted and plays like a noir short, easily one of the best vids I’ve seen in some time.
It wasn’t until several listens through this track that it struck me who Gaz’s voice reminds me of with its mix of sandpaper gruffness and yearning: Karl Wallinger, the wonder man behind World Party. Gaz too is a multi-instrumentalist and is capable, as evidenced in this track and many others on his solo albums, of weaving together earthy epics that reach for the sky from a firm spot in the dirt. It saddens me that I’ve ignored this man for so long, but I’m glad I’m now belatedly walking the walk. You should too if you, like me, don’t believe the hype.