1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 284

Matador, by Gaz Coombes
Suggested by Paul Wray

It’s weird, what you end up hating. Let’s consider emojis.

In general, I’ve no beef with them. A gentle sprinkling of signposted descriptors can aide comprehension and inform intent in a societally-accepted short-cut way. They’re flabby, sure, akin to pointing at a punchline and screaming HERE IS THE JOKE, but we’re not writing nuanced comedy in our tossed-off 3am Facebook retorts, and a smiley face can help us sidestep so much pearl-clutching.

One emoji, however, gives me the screaming fits every time I see it. It’s the one that signifies “wackiness,” I guess. The on with a winky eye and a protruding tongue.

I absolutely hate it.

Any time I see it in a Facebook post or tweet, I have to suppress the urge to scroll by and ignore the poster. I look at it as a signpost to idiocy, as a sure-fire label to the sort of forced and desperate “lunacy” that’s grasped at by the truly mundane. “Hahaha, look at me, I’ve put a traffic cone on my head, I’m totally mad!”

Like ending a sentence with multiple exclamation marks, it’s social media’s Do Not Touch sign.

But that’s weird, on my part, right? It’s just an emoji. It’s a ridiculous notion, that’s my issue to resolve.

I mention emojis because the cover of the Gaz Coombes album could well be an emoji. Perhaps one portraying polite but slightly insincere surprise, as if you’ve stumbled into your surprise party that you learnt about the previous week.

I recognised the name Gaz Coombes, and the face, and indeed the voice, but I couldn’t place it until my post-listen Google. I’ll get to that in time.

Matador is a beautiful, energetic and eager album, with a strong production ethic and nuanced, mature sound. Restless and anarchic in places, controlled and direct in others, it’s a textures piece, calling from a number of sources, such as the gospel tinge of 20/20, the exultant Stones stutter alongside a dreamy psychedelia of Buffalo, or the pixie folk-ish tinge to The Who Fell to Earth. Vocally, Coombes is high and assured, capable or wringing fresh emotion from the most quirkily introverted places. My favourite track is the straightforward but slightly unsettling Detroit, but the mellowing undercurrent through the whole album does much to calm, soothe and entertain at all points.

“Matador gets 7/10”, I conclude, before checking out Google for some salient facts. There, I learnt that Gaz Coombes was the mutton-chopped leader of Supergrass, purveyors of such banging anthems as Alright and Pumping On Your Stereo. And once again, I was irrationally angry.

Back in the day, Supergrass were a fun and forthright indie britpop band with a joyful childish irreverence. Their feel-good songs made me feel young, which, at 21, I demonstrably was. Matador is a mature departure from the Supergrass mold, as is Coombes’s right, but it serves to highlight my ageing existence in stark and wrinkled relief. I don’t hate is – quite the opposite – but I do hate that it reminds me of my slow slide towards old age and irrelevance . And for that alone, I doubt it’ll see much play in Chez Craig going forward.

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