Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For today’s instalment, we’re rating a long awaited reissue that sees UK indie rockers Gomez put their cult favourite debut back into print for the first time in years.
Everyone loves an underdog – and, back in 1998, it seems as though that’s exactly what Gomez were. Their debut album – the fittingly titled ‘Bring It On’ – became nominated for that year’s Mercury Prize and, in the process, went from the status of a moderate cult success to a significant hit, especially seeing as the band managed to land the prize in spite of competition from mega sellers The Verve and Massive Attack. Since then, Gomez – and ‘Bring It On’ in particular – have enjoyed a kind of comfortable middle ground between cult recognition and genuine stardom. It’s been years since the album passed the half-a-million sold benchmark, despite the fact that ‘Bring It On’ is, in all honesty, an experimental, daring album and one that wouldn’t necessarily appear to be the most likely contender for such commercial success. It’s certainly a great record but, between the ecstatic genre-hopping (that sees the band jump from earthy blues to bucolic folk to fuzzy psychedelia and back again) and winding, complex songs, it certainly doesn’t seem like the album most likely to shift so many units in an age where simplistic Brit-pop ruled the charts. Still, it’s admirable that the album managed to make such an impact as it’s a record thoroughly deserving of such an accolade. The band hold a rare ear for melody throughout proceedings and their songs unfurl from initially tightly constructed pieces into organic, panoramic soundscapes at an easygoing, natural rate. It’s a compelling, unique record and one definitely deserving of the high quality vinyl reissue it’s just received.
There’s a lot of good news to report when it comes to this reissue – chief of which is the fact that it sounds superb. This is of little surprise, however, given that it was pressed by France’s reliably excellent MPO – a pressing plant that has been producing high quality records for decades. The plant’s trademark three concentric rings on the label are an immediate giveaway of their involvement on this reissue and the matrix details make no secret of it, either. Spread over two heavyweight black double LPs, pressing quality is spot-on here, with playback clean and free of any significant defects. At most, there’s a very mild touch of surface noise at points but nothing that distracts from the music and, by and large, playback quality is about as close to perfect as it’s reasonable to expect, at least on our copy. The album has been remastered and it sounds great – instrument separation is strong, all the various frequencies are well balanced and represented and the overall soundscape is clear and crisp. The album was last reissued back in 2013 (for the first time since the album’s 1998 original release) and with both previous pressings now fetching ridiculous prices online, this reissue is certainly a welcome one. Although we haven’t heard either of the previous pressings to compare it to, frankly we doubt they could be any better than this 2018 release as it impresses in many regards. Also of the note is the fact that the pressing sits flat and warp-free on the platter during playback, all four sides also appearing clean and shiny from new, free of the scuff marks and fingerprints sometimes found on lesser-quality new releases. One curious point to note is that although grooves are cut all the way across side 4, the side is largely silent, with only one single track – lasting less than a minute – hidden somewhere within the grooves. It’s an unusual choice, certainly (and one that apparently replicates previous pressings) but it’s definitely an interesting one and singles the album out as having the closest thing vinyl can offer to a CD-style hidden bonus track. That means that the album proper is only spread over the first three sides, however there’s certainly no risk of the kind of distortion or lessened fidelity associated with fitting too much music on one side, as the main album slots comfortably into the three sides given over to it and sounds great.
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If the pressing itself sets a high bar to match, then it’s one comfortably risen to the excellent, high quality packaging and presentation on this reissue. This reissue positively oozes class; printed from rough-textured card, print quality is sharp and defined throughout with the colour palette being similarly impressive. Rather than taking form as a traditional gatefold sleeve, the cover instead folds out to reveal one single large pocket within the gatefold, inside which the records are stored. While, for the sake of convenience, we found ourselves storing the records outside of the cover but inside a plastic sleeve for quicker access (which is something we do for all records anyway), there’s no denying that this is a slick, attractive package and one that differentiates itself clearly from the vast majority of other double LP releases – new or old. The records are kept from new in well printed inner sleeves – they’re high quality for what they are and definitely stand as a most welcome inclusion but we do advise slipping the records into more forgiving polylined inners for general usage. The spine looks good with a minimalistic but classy font choice and clear printing, the back cover likewise benefitting from the sharp choice of typography. One very minor niggle we did find with the presentation is that the hype sticker found on the shrink-wrap states – at least on our copy – that the records inside are coloured vinyl, whereas the records actually contained within are black. Whilst the colouring of the records themselves is really neither here nor there, it’s certainly something to keep in mind. Regardless, this is a really well presented reissue and a quality release throughout.
This new reissue of ‘Bring It On’ really hits the mark – it puts back in print a highly sought-after, scarce album and does so in style, with clean, well-pressed records and slick, attractive presentation. The album’s sonics and mastering are excellent and pressing quality satisfies with clean playback and strong fidelity. Presentation is likewise impressive and, all in all, this is a high quality reissue.