Split between Britain and the United States, seven studio albums into their career and with songwriters Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell having released solo albums (rusty-voiced Ottewell's being the excellent alt. folk Shapes and Shadows) hardly seems to have damaged this band, which started on a career high when they won the 1998 Mercury Prize for their Bring it On debut, an accolade crippling to a lesser band.

Here they deliver something akin to a more coherent version of the Beatles' White Album where the writers play to their individual strengths but pull songs together with a single Gomez voice.

That said, Ottewell's distinctive style commands the string-enhanced, uplifting title track ("let it go") and encouraging sentiments on chamber-rock of Our Goodbye, and there are bright Beatlesque pop elements in the lyrically probing Options and folk-rocking Just as Lost As You. And X-Rays at the end splutters neatly between folk, synth-strings, electro-noir and prog-rock ambition.

There's urgent electrostatic rock on the Ottewell-lead Equalize (terrific) and open-hearted synth-rock on That Wolf (hmmm) which seem slightly at odds with the overall sonic mood, and the weaker tracks (notably the ordinary The Place and the People salvaged by production and effects, the lyrically limp Song in my Heart) pull this back.

But the first half confirms time and distance haven't much harmed Gomez's warm appeal.

Stars: 3/5
Verdict: Atlantic-hopping band reconvene for more pop-rock with folk flavours
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- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz