Former Supergrass leader homes in on “the intense areas of life” for third solo album.
Gaz Coombes was on holiday earlier this year when he read Grayson Perry’s The Descent Of Man. The Turner Prize-winning artist’s look at manhood in the 21st century struck a chord with Coombes, himself about as far away from the embodiment of toxic masculinity as it gets. “It touches on how the male identity is in trouble – how young men have this image of how they should be growing up, how success means having your own personal Trump Tower,” says the former Supergrass singer. “He questions the people he speaks to, but he never judges them – they’re just brought up to be tough guys.” The book inspired Walk The Walk, a song from Coombes’s third solo LP, which conjures images of a Trumpian character holed up in a compound, wearing sweat pants and a vest, finger hovering over a big red button. “I didn’t want it to be purely about him, cos there are enough other alpha male characters trampling over everything in front of them to get to the top,” he says. “It’s a delusional existence, and at the same time it’s a damaging one.” The yet-to-be-titled album picks up where 2015’ s Matador left off. Songs such as the woozily pulsing Deep Pockets, Oxygen Music (featuring Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood) and the graceful disconnection of The Oaks hitch Coombes’s innate pop sensibilities to a determinedly experimental approach fuelled by loops, discordant duelling guitars and the singer’s collection of vintage synths. “There were a lot of things that I still had left to say musically after the last album. Putting odd combinations together, seeing if I can make things work that shouldn’t. A bit of mad-scientist stuff.” The effervescence of Coombes’s Britpop days has long been supplanted by the wisdom of age, though the 41- year-old insists the LP is “open and gregarious… it touches on the intense areas of life, whether that’s extremes of love and beauty, or your own flaws.” Those flaws inspired the opening track, the ironically-titled World’s Strongest Man. “That’s about being in a low place, sitting in your dressing grown, watching TV thinking, ‘When it comes to being an imperfect idiot, I’m the world’s strongest man.’ But I like it when things are imperfect and confusing. I’d worry if everything was just great.” There’s still potential for things to fly off the rails when it comes to recreating the new songs onstage. “I record everything I write and jam as I’m doing it, but the problem comes later when I can’t remember what I’ve been playing,” says Coombes wryly. He shouldn’t worry. Honesty trumps perfection every time.
“I like it when things are imperfect and confusing. I’d worry if everything was just great.”
Gaz Coombes: “open and gregarious” on his new offering