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A year ago, the Mercury Music Prize went to a band who looked like the Computer Sciences Department chess club and who knocked up their debut album in a garage for their own amusement. You wouldn't have known it to listen to the record. Bring It On had the anarchic

pick'n'mix eclecticism of Beck, the skilful semi-acoustic playing of five musicians who listened and reacted to each other, a tin-shack bluesiness unheard of from Stockport twentysomethings, and the astonishing gruff, barrel-chested singing of men who, you'd imagine, had drunk whisky and wrestled alligators since birth. The follow-up is Bring It On with more ambition. Liquid Skin has fewer fake Americanisms, the sources are less obvious and the songs are less straightforward: wherever possible, verse- chorus structures are snarled up by changes of key, time signature and instrumentation. The resulting tracks are relay races. Within a minute, the baton will be passed from an overdriven bass to an organ riff to a disco drum break to something that may well be a cement mixer. It would make for an exhausting listen if Gomez didn't get as much out of writing pop hooks as they do out of experimenting. But they do. Liquid Skin has the scope and boldness to rival Radiohead, and yet it still sounds as if Gomez knocked it up in a garage for their own amusement.