Fans of Southport, England’s Gomez have long realized that with three songwriters in the band, there was bound to be a bit of venturing into solo-land, for true-blue songwriters can only collaborate and play nice for so long. Ian Ball has no desire to see his outfit disband, but is keen to try some orchestrations of his own, which are in turn are subtly lovely, genuine, organic and pleasing in their simplicity.
It’s fair to call Who Goes There “piano-driven,” but don’t let that lead you to think this is a typical boy-and-his-piano heartstring-tugger. Rather, Ball has mastered an uncanny knack to make the absence of guitar largely unnoticeable. Instead, he magically manages to serve up a heavy rotation of a crunchy Fender Rhodes, mellow acoustic piano, electronic loopery and glass-clear glockenspiels that override the soft strummings of acoustic guitar in a playful way, lending a fresh sound to songs of love and its trials, which are lyrically a little cheeky, but never campy. Ball even manages to make getting high from enough drugs to tranquilize an elephant (“The Elephant Pharmacy”) sound charming.
Ball’s skills as a solo artist lie in his ability to bring living-room ballads uncannily within reach, despite his intensely personal storytelling style. From the introspective, self-soothing opener “Sweet Sweet Sleep” to the bouncy “Automatic Message” and whimsical “When We Were Cool,” Ball doesn’t get in anyone’s face – just garners slow, but solid, appreciation. VS