Gaz Coombes (ex Supergrass)

Gaz Coombes

Gaz Coombes thrives on progress. By the time his former band Supergrass dissolved in
2010, the group had shed its fizzy Britpop roots and grown into a sophisticated outfit
hopscotching between all kinds of extroverted sounds: obsidian glam, lush orchestral rock,
and blustering blues. As a solo artist, Coombes has continued pushing his sonic range
forward, toward a realm that's far more intimate and experimental than the one in which
Supergrass operated.
The Oxford, England, native's third album,World's Strongest Man, is full of eerie sound
sculptures, built around Krautrock-inspired rhythmic bustle, oblique electronics — which
alternate between dour synths and gushing keyboard percolations — and chattering
percussion. Shivering violin chills the solemn piano ballad "Slow Motion Life"; "Walk The
Walk" is a funk flirtation with contorted melodies and plush Faith Simpson and Beverlei
Brown background vocals; and both "In Waves" and "Vanishing Act" find Coombes
unleashing some brash electric guitar buzz.
The musician co-producedWorld's Strongest Man with long-time foil Ian Davenport, but
played nearly every part on the album himself. Such control over the artistic vision explains
the record's otherworldly vibe and freedom from convention. But World's Strongest Man is
also said to be partly inspired by Frank Ocean'sBlonde, which better informs its inward-
looking purview: Both records understand that giving arrangements and textures room to
breathe creates a sonic landscape conducive to emotional depth.
The cloistered feel ofWorld's Strongest Man also correlates directly to Coombes'
introspective lyrics, which he's said reference his own experiences with anxiety and
depression. In practice, this translates to songs about trying desperately to regain emotional
equilibrium ("Vanishing Act"), resisting the urge to give in to darkness ("In Waves") or
finding solace in love despite feeling unbalanced ("Weird Dreams"). Coombes' expressive
voice captures these many moods; depending on what the song requires, he skips between a
conspiratorial soul croon, thrashing punk yowl, and a vulnerable, spiraling falsetto.
The implications of hiding intense personal fears are even more complicated on the brisk
synth-pop single "Deep Pockets," which explores self-medication as a way to deal with social
anxiety. The narrator suggests claustrophobic settings can lead to poor decision-making.
He's only able to gather up the courage to venture outside by relying on a familiar crutch:
being "too stoned in the back seat again." (World's Strongest Manis hardly anti-marijuana,
however: On "Wounded Egos," a creativity-inducing strain known as Lamb's Bread is
mentioned as something used to buoy optimism amidst the stress of global chaos.)
This batch of songs hints at a poignant take on the album's title,World's Strongest Man: It
signifies someone using a steely façade to mask deeper personal uncertainties. But on other
tunes, the titular figure is viewed with more skepticism.
The title track's conflicted protagonist vacillates between insecurity and arrogance;
accordingly, when a crisis hits, his boasts turn into bluffs: "Call me when the fire starts /
Don't call me if it gets too hot." The illusion of power is also exposed on the cynical "Walk

The Walk," which alludes to political divisions ("I'm in a time of separation / Paralysed by
our own nation") and the dangers of being distracted by subterfuge.
Yet Coombes also recognizes that strength and vulnerability can bolster each other. The
fanciful "Oxygen Mask" takes the form of a comforting (if cautionary) letter from the
constellation Aquarius, here personified as a wizened sage directing young, whippersnapper
stars to wear their oxygen masks to weather a bumpy, dystopian future. It's a playful conceit
that nevertheless beams the crystal-clear message that change is difficult and inevitable, but
ultimately what's needed for survival. Coombes has always taken this message to heart, and
onWorld's Strongest Man, it's a credo that yields some of his most perceptive, satisfying
work yet.

World’s Strongest Man is released on 4 th May 2018.

PRAISE FOR ‘WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN’
“His most perceptive, satisfying work yet” – NPR
“This whole record is just so fantastically distorted, warped, and his voice is so distinctive, lots of
surprises in it” –Robin Hilton /All Songs Considered.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK!
“World's Strongest Man is a winning combination of the familiar and the peculiar” – Under The
Radar
“You’ll want to listen to “World’s Strongest Man” again and again.” “this is a dazzling thrill ride
worth taking over and over.” – Mother Jones
"...Coombes has managed to challenge himself artistically whilst retaining the honesty that has
earned him his ongoing success as a solo artist." - Pop Matters
“a mature modern album, one filled with questions but also curiously settled, a combination that
makes World's Strongest Man more rewarding with each listen.” – All Music
“On his third solo album, the former Supergrass man is trying to be more like the man he wants
himself and other men to be” - NME ★★★★
“Olympian” - Q ★★★★
"Gaz Coombes' best work" - MOJO ★★★★
“Bold, brisk, rather beautiful" - Uncut ★★★★

$20.00

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Tickets on sale: 1/26 @ 10AM EST

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