Over subsequent albums, the promise evident on Gomez's 1998 Mercury Prize-winning debut, Bring It On, was squandered in successive orgies of self-indulgence. Each time, I suggested that an outside producer was required to rein in their excesses, and How We Operate confirms my diagnosis: with the experienced Gil Norton at the helm, these performances are the band's most focused and productive since that debut, neither dissipated through jamming longueurs, nor disguised by needless instrumental frippery. At last, the songs sound like songs again, and pretty decent songs for the first two-thirds of the album, at least. Themes of change and reconciliation dominate the songs: "Chasing Ghosts with Alcohol" is a reflection on old friends and old songs now passed over, "Charley Patton Songs" searches for remnants of antique meaning in modern America, and several songs, including "See the World" and "How We Operate", grapple with the need to settle old scores peacefully. Best of all is "Hamoa Beach", a lovely, shuffling summery groove offering advice to a frightened friend.
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