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Album Review: Gaz Coombes – Turn The Car Around

3 min read
Album Review: Gaz Coombes - Turn The Car Around

Gaz Coombes returns with a career highlight on his new solo LP, Turn The Car Around. While the 46 year old from Oxford was on tour only last year with Supergrass, whom he made his name with, Coombes continues to demonstrate his chops as a solo artist. On that tour Coombes would’ve been performing Supergrass albums, like their debut I Should Coco, that brim with punk edge and a charming Britpop in-your-face-ness. Turn The Car Around is comparatively opulent – the songs are carefully and robustly crafted. The instrumentation is immaculate and the song structures are measured. It’s Coombes’ most cohesive, rounded solo record to date and recalls the best of Richard Hawley or Hamilton Leithauser. The album has great touring potential, with many tracks that will lend themselves well to live performances. 

Opener Overnight Trains provides the atmosphere its title evokes. It’s an introduction to how Coombes explores intimate, quiet spaces across many pockets of the album which then germinate into grander spectacles. Overnight Trains crescendos with crashing drums and fuzzy guitars but also with a general sonic warmth, as if the “Overnight Train” were arriving at the most dramatic of sunrises. With perfect sequencing, the low-key Overnight Trains leads into the anthemic Don’t Say It’s Over. Don’t Say It’s Over chugs along with heft, a woozy banger and highlight. Coombes’ vocal lines sound effortless yet weighty – writing of substance still comes easily to him. The song sounds appropriately burdened, with the wonderfully multifaceted baggage of instrumentation it carries conveying the bittersweet complexity of a dying love. The album’s title track serves as the album’s other centrepiece. Turn The Car Around encapsulates the album’s variety, producing beautiful, headily psychedelic passages alongside a driving, memorable chorus. It’s addictively absorbing. 

Due to the variety on show, the album rarely feels stilted or one dimensional – until the later stages of the album where the strength in songwriting does begin to wilt. The level of detail is impressive, often extensive but not overdone. The tracks are layered so that they possess multiple flavours at once, distinctive in their blend of sounds and genres, as exemplified by the title track. As a result the album flows easily, winding through different moods and styles. With Feel Loop (Lizard Dream) Coombes is more direct in his songwriting, pulling from an Idles brand of punk, particularly with its screeching guitar licks. Not The Only Things, meanwhile, is built out of a moody folk instrumental which goes on to incorporate electric guitars in the manner of a Ben Howard. Long Live The Strange is very The Suburbs era Arcade Fire in its verses while its chorus is demonstrative of Coombes’ capacity to pull together a big band sound on solo material. 

Adding to a now extensive solo catalogue, the Supergrass frontman Coombes is more confident than ever on Turn The Car Around, an album that revels in thick, gorgeous instrumentation and high quality songwriting. Coombes isn’t daring in the sense of producing a completely unique, new sound but Turn The Car Around is consistently ambitious in reimagining Coombes’ own approach to songwriting and is an engrossing listen as a result. Coombes is sure to please long running fans of his work with Turn The Car Around all while keeping his sound fresh and innovative.