'Tuned In' review: Max Gomez rules in a subtle way

Max Gomez's 'Rule the World'

Max Gomez's "Rule the World"

“Rule the World,” Max Gomez (New West)

Max Gomez packs a complicated agenda into a seemingly humble package with his aptly titled “Rule the World,” due for release Jan. 22, though he likely has only a modest expectation of his listeners: Take what you will.

On the surface, the native of Taos., N.M., comes across as a straightforward singer-songwriter, playing his acoustic guitar and singing about love.

Yet his lyrics have tricky layers of darkness to them, and unlike the traditional unassuming vocals of his genre, Gomez barely suppresses some crooner tendencies in his delivery. Also, “Rule the World” stirs into the roots-tinged folk brew an improbable combination of pop hooks and bluesy grit.

As a listener experience, “Rule the World” eventually comes down to how Gomez’s audience responds to his question on the track “True Blue”: “What does it mean to fall in love?” Is it just a shallow, unanswerable question to bridge him to trite, if heartfelt, lyrics about devotion? Or is he perhaps looking for a deep probe into the human psyche? His subsequent line “My love will never die” suggests the former, but the subsequent line, “Is there anybody in there fighting to come out?” indicates the latter.

So basically, you choose your own adventure.

Gomez ambles from the aww-shucks romance of the alt-rockish title track (“What if I could rule the world? … I’d take the pain from your heart”) to a country-flavored “Run From You” that references a melody line from Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to the chunky, electric roil of “Ball and Chain.”

The ambient strains of steel guitar add nuance, and emotional depth is achieved by way of tempered fatalism on “Never Say Never” and modified joy on closer “Cherry Red Wine” (“I’ll leave here broken hearted, but in heaven, I’ll be fine”).

Sometimes lethargic pacing gets the best of “Rule the World” (as on the tracks “Black and White” and “You Get Me High”), and the soft-sell approach of the Jeff Trott-produced release rarely turns out unforgettable payoffs.

Still, Gomez puts out a little something for just about everyone in this stylistic/lyrical cornucopia.

Rating (five possible): 3-1/2

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