Gaz Coombes - 'World's Strongest Man' Album Review


Tracklist:

1. World's Strongest Man

2. Deep Pockets

3. Walk The Walk

4. Shit (I've Done It Again)

5. Slow Motion Life

6. Wounded Egos

7. Oxygen Mask

8. In Waves

9. The Oaks

10. Vanishing Act

11. Weird Dreams

4th May saw the release of “World’s Strongest Man” the latest offering since 2015’s “Matador” from Gaz Coombes.

I’m not sure exactly what I was hoping for with this album – not a reheated Supergrass but something a little more accessible than I found “Matador”. What I actually found when I listened is an album that follows a groove in places and slowly builds in layers in others, all the while questioning what it is to be a man (and sometimes Gaz Coombes himself), what is actually a strength and not a weakness in today’s world.

Opening track “World’s Strongest Man” kind of sets the tone for the album with the split refrain “I wanna be by myself/Don’t leave me by myself”. The song feels like an inward look, acknowledging and celebrating the contradictions and flaws we all have in ourselves, looking for the strength that comes from recognising and accepting yourself for who you are, while “Shit (I’ve Done It Again)” touches on the realisation that you’re caught up in a repeating pattern of behaviour and the guilt and self recrimination it brings, while being unable to break the cycle.

“Wounded Egos” takes a swipe at the all too prevalent attitude that violence is the the only way to preserve your stature in the light of any perceived slight with Gaz imploring “…but we can do this another way” The song ends with a chorus of children singing “Wounded Egos/Right Wing Psychos” over and over again…a touch Pink Floyd perhaps, but it also highlights the childishness of that kind of attitude and book ends the song perfectly.

One of the hardest songs to listen to is “Vanishing Act”…having witnessed a few, it feels how I’d imagine the build up to a panic attack does in musical form with Gaz screaming “I gotta get my fucking head straight/I gotta put on my happy face”. It’s uncomfortable but also compelling – a couple of times I’ve caught myself almost trying to mentally talk him down while listening.

“Oxygen Mask” is for me one of the stand out tracks - a beautiful sweeping builder with the notion that you have to make sure you’re ok before you can help others…either that, or he’s just listened to one too many pre flight demonstrations and I’m reading far too much into these songs!

I’ve kind of struggled with this review – not because it’s a poor record but because it’s such a difficult one to pin down…every time I listen to it I take something different from it. I generally try to shy away from looking too deeply into the meaning of songs (ever since I tried to convince 4F that Roxette’s “Look Sharp!” was a treatise on the dangers of running with scissors) but these songs demand you listen carefully and think. It’s absolutely not what I was expecting when I sat down to listen to it but that somehow only makes me love it more…it’s dark, it’s honest, it’s joyful and it’s hopeful all at once.

Website - www.gazcoombes.com

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/GazCoombes/

Review - Chris Watson

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