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In the Music Spotlight: Gaz Coombes

Gaz Coombes | SUPPLIED PHOTO

It doesn’t seem so long ago that English rock-pop band Supergrass celebrated its longevity with a singles collection called “Supergrass is 10.” That set included cheeky glam-pop anthem “Caught by the Fuzz” and frenetic fare like “Richard III.” Now, former frontman Gaz Coombes is more than halfway to another decadal anniversary with his satisfying solo career.

Coombes’ second album “Matador” was released in 2015 to considerable success in the UK. An expanded edition arrives soon to accompany Coombes’ first North American tour as a solo artist. “I’m desperate to get over,” he says.

“Matador” reveals an impressive evolution in Coombes’ songwriting, both musically and thematically. His note-perfect vocal and guitar prowess remain in evidence, but singles like “20-20” release the orchestra that plays within his head. “The Girl Who Fell to Earth” frets over a loved one too engrossed in the digital world.

The pulsing, synthesizer-driven “The English Ruse” reveals a thoughtful citizen concerned with the motives of those running the world. “I’m in league with the humans,” he sings. “The big divide is our design.” It’s a relevant American sentiment, too, with conservative political discourse trending toward xenophobia.

“With Donald Trump, it’s just a mad oddity,” says Coombes. “He’s made that separation even bigger. I don’t mind being further away from each other in a technological point of view, like moving our eyes towards something besides an iPad screen. But I think we need to bring ourselves closer with our outlook on life.”

Coombes hits a personal milestone this week, turning 40. It’s an occasion worthy of a proper celebration. “I think I might be in a dark room with a massive box of Kentucky Fried Chicken,” he says, deadpanning. “No, seriously, I’m going to have a big party at a club in Soho. It’s not really like me to make a song and dance of it, but it’s been too long since New Year. I’m up for a bit of a party.”

With the milestone birthday, one remembers the teenaged Coombes who started Supergrass in 1993. Is that kid in awe of his elder self’s accomplishments?

“I never really looked ahead, so I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted then,” says Coombes. “But it’s been amazing. I played the Forum and the Roundhouse in London last year – two iconic venues for me, from my days with Supergrass. I didn’t know whether I would do anything like that with my solo stuff. You have to rebuild. I’m overwhelmed with how well it’s gone.”

* Gaz Coombes of Supergrass, with Piney Gir, 8 p.m. Mar. 30, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln, $25 (ages 21+); lincolnhallchicago.com.

SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/GazSPOT

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.

Posted March 21, 2016.