Gaz Brookfield – 'Idiomatic' Album Review
2. Battle Cry
4. The King Of Unprepared
5. Tomorrow’s Problem
7. The Art Of Failing
8. The Polisher Stone
9. It Will Do For Now
10. Living The Dream
Gaz Brookfield steps further away from his early Acoustic Folk roots into a wider musical landscape.
It seems remarkable that in 10 years Gaz Brookfield has written 8 albums of original material. Some bands can’t even figure out how to record a couple of demo tracks in that time (yeah I’m talking to you… Insert band name here if you know one) So, here we are in 2021 with an 8th album by Gaz, this is his 2nd album during the Covid era which is impressive considering he had no intention of writing an album during the lockdowns (as it was too obvious before writing album #7 'Lockdown' – A real intense Punk affair).
After the hectic aggressive Punk influenced album 'Lockdown' where Gaz got lots of his frustrations out, where do we find Mr Brookfield now? I look forward to each new album Gaz drops as I’m always intrigued to hear what my friend has released. Having said that Gaz being a friend does make this review even harder as I have good few years of history with Mr. Brookfield. I will admit that upon hearing the 1st song released from the album my initial impressions weren’t the best. Upon hearing 'The Art of Failing' my first reaction was what the fuck is this! – Not totally in a negative way, it was just something very different to what I’d come to know and love by Gaz. It took me a few listens to get my head around this song and I know there were other fans feeling the same. In fact, some fans have said outright it's shit and he’s drifted too far from his roots which I personally think is a very narrowminded view. I’ve been here before with Gaz when he first released the song 'Lost Folk' from the album of the same name, that threw me then and on its own I didn’t really get it. I thought I was losing my musical love with Gaz, but I needn’t have worried as when the album dropped there was more than enough cool tunes to keep me happy and the same applies with 'Idiomatic'.
What I love most about Gaz Brookfield these days and especially since album #5 'I Know My Place' is you never really know what he’s going to do next. Last time with 'Lockdown' it was all raging aggression at the covid world and being shut up, this time it’s totally different and I love that. Why be stuck doing the same ‘ol shit album after album as it gets boring. 'Idiomatic' is new ground for Gaz and if this is an indication of where he could go next then I’m looking forward to it as this album is very varied.
'Idiomatic' is roughly 40 minutes long and features 10 quite varied songs so let’s jump in and see what we’ve got...
Pantomime: Is a good link to the past in the lyrics and vocal delivery, it’s a very upbeat pop song that sort of straddles the Gaz of old and now. Although the stripped back acoustic guitars and fiddles are gone this song could easily sit on one of his earlier albums. In place of the fiddle solos of old there are guitar melody lines (not rip roaring solo’s). This song could easily have been written by an indie band and it’s a solid start.
Battle Cry: Although I hate woah Oh’s in songs, there is such a warmth to the beginning of this song that it’s hard not to like them. 'Battle Cry' uses some great dynamics between acoustic guitars and electric guitars going from rocking to nothing to rocking again effortlessly. I got to admit that the woah oh chorus is pretty damn catchy (despite how much I hate woah Oh’s – damn you Gaz ha ha).
Idiomatic: Gaz has certainly developed a talent for writing some really catchy earworms or hooks if you will. 'Idiomatic' is the crossroads where new and old Gaz Brookfield meet to decide which way musically things are going to go. One thing has become clear, the lockdowns have had a huge impact on Gaz and it appears he’s more focused and willing to try newer things which is great.
The King Of Unprepared: Speaking of newer things, this is clearly one of those tracks that have resulted in some people hating 'Idiomatic' as it steps to far away from Gaz’s roots. It’s very 80’s influenced with its keyboard sounds and sort of touches on 'Hot Fuss' era Killers or New Wave. I’m still undecided on this song but I respect Gaz’s need to mix things up and do something different – I will never fault a solo artist or band for going against the grain.
Tomorrow’s Problem: What a beautiful, dreamy lullaby Gaz has written. If there is any justice in the world this song would be #1 and give Gaz the attention he truly deserves. I’m gonna call it right here this is the song of the year for me, Gaz has done something truly outstanding for him and I don’t know if I have the words (right now to describe this). Musically this is the best thing Gaz has ever recorded/written flat out. It’s a beautifully laid back, lullaby with some amazing, augmented orchestration that makes 'Tomorrow’s Problem' sound heavenly and a perfect love song. The emotion coming out of this song is hard to deny. Over the years Gaz has written several songs that have hit me really hard personally due to their subject matter and made me cry (we’ve had conversations about this and how they’ve helped me). I have to say once again my friend has written a song that made me cry (I will have to have words with him again ha ha). I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one to have ended up shedding a tear after hearing this. If you’re listening to this on vinyl then this is the end of side one and what a perfect ending it is.
Monochrome: Either starts side 2 or continues the album by coming roaring out in a Punk style to lift the mood with an upbeat driving song about growing up in good old Swindon (a subject matter I will never tire of). There is some good guitar work here and the drums really drive the song along, yes its not the most technical thing Gaz has ever written but it’s just what the album needed at this point.
The Art Of Failing: Ah the first song from the album that was released. This was written whilst Gaz was recovering from a broken leg thanks to a motorbike accident. In some ways breaking his leg may have been a good thing as this has given Gaz a chance to think outside of the box and try something different. Sure, it’s nothing like anything Gaz has ever recorded before but strip away all the electronic stuff it’s sure as hell a Gaz Brookfield song. Lyrically it sits as well as anything else he’s done when dealing with a subject matter – in this case his broken leg. The first time I heard this song I thought what the hell is this? In the context of the album, it works pretty well and shows another side to Gaz. I respect him even more for trying something different here and although for some people it may be a step too far, I’d rather see someone try and fail trying something new than never try. It’ll never be my favourite song but it’s not terrible either, if you think about it Gaz has been trying more varied things since album #5 so this really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
The Polisher Stone: This is another song that sort of sits at the crossroads of new and old Gaz Brookfield. One of the things I admire most about Gaz as a song writer and as a person is his ability to sing about a place he has visited. Somehow, he always finds a way to inspire you to want to visit the place he’s been (even if it’s just a field with a few stones in it – a crap description I know). Despite roughly knowing the area where he’s singing about (Avebury was like my playground as a child) Gaz finds a way to make the journey to find the Polisher Stone sound magical. I do have to personally thank him for inspiring me to go discover many places in the area I grew up, that I was too young to find on my own – Ok enough of your own personal love of Wiltshire, Aleutia we get it! Now how does the song sound? 'The Polisher Stone' is the second best song on this album straight up, it’s huge with masses of sub bass and atmosphere. If I’m honest, this evoked memories of some of the more Celtic sounding songs the late Stuart Adamson of Big Country wrote. Musically speaking the slow drums carry the song along like a procession towards its destination. Again, the orchestration adds a huge soundscape to this song and takes it to another level. I do love the way Gaz’s vocals are done on this song as there is lots of echo and reverb which only adds to the overall mystical vibe of the song.
It Will Do for Now: After the dark intensity of 'The Polisher Stone', we get 'It Will Do For Now'. This song is a weird one to describe as some of the instruments give off vibes of some of Gaz’s earlier upbeat little ditties especially in the intro whereas the vocals and bass in the verses provide an interesting juxtaposition. It’s different and it’ll be interesting to see if Gaz tries more of this type of song going forward. If you’ve ever felt stuck in a rut with your life, then you’ll be able to relate to this song.
Living The Dream: When you get to 8 albums worth of original material there will probably come a point where you either write something very similar to something before or re-use an idea from before. The first time I heard I thought "that sounds like 'The Year That Never Was' from the album 'Lockdown'". I don’t know if this is an intentional companion piece or just a happy accident, but it works well. Lyrically this is a song that covers everything Gaz has done musically up to now and told in his own charming way. Musically it’s a great lazy laid-back ending to 'Idiomatic' and another sign of how far Gaz has come as a song writer.
As I said this review was always going to be hard for me due to Gaz being my friend. So how do I feel about 'Idiomatic'? Well as I said with the first song I heard, I wasn’t sure, but I was prepared to wait and see how it fitted into the whole album. For the first time I’ve not listened to any of Gaz’s new songs in the run up to the album apart from 'The Art of Failing'. I knew I was going to review this, so I wanted to see how it all sits together which meant no watching any live streams or anything.
When it comes to studio albums, Gaz has shifted away from his roots and shown incredible growth. He may lose some fans who preferred his more Folk influenced songs, but I think he’ll gain more fans with this release than he loses. 'Idiomatic' is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close and it’s an album you definitely need to check out if you’ve never heard of Gaz Brookfield. If we look at the first four albums of his career as the first act, then 'Idiomatic' is the best release of act two and opens the door more for Gaz to try different things. I really do like this album and how varied it is as no one style takes hold of the album and the sequencing is spot on.
Going forward I hope Gaz decides to keep mixing things up as it’s really made for a really enjoyable album.
Website - gazbrookfield.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/gazbrookfieldmusic
Review - Aleutia Shannon