It’s been a few years now since we heard anything from Bay Area stalwarts The Sandwitches, and what’s more it is allegedly their swansong, with the girls having announced their split earlier this year. I’d love to say it was a fitting epitaph, and, for the first few tracks at least, it is, but by jingo does it drag in the middle!
Hold on a minute, did I actually just utter the words “by jingo”? Seriously? Maybe this band has hidden hypnotic powers and I have unwittingly been transformed into an eighteenth century dandy, or possessed by the chivalric spirit of David Niven, I’m not sure which. But their music DOES possess a kind of magical dreamlike quality after all.
Like three Victorian sisters crowding around a Grand piano, ‘Sunny Side’ is an arresting and slightly disconcerting way to begin. The pretty harmonies juxtaposed with the ever so slightly out of tune ivory tinklings somehow give this number a haunting effect that leads you to believe that perhaps ‘Our Toast’ is a classic in the making. You can certainly see why Emily Rose of the Ty Segall Band describes them as “a band straight out of a David Lynch film”. It doesn’t stop there either, as the ominous dark country-garage clatter of the entertainingly titled ‘Play It Again Dick‘ testifies. It’s a brilliant double salvo that is further enhanced by the startling operatic tones of the trio on ‘Sleeping Practice’ to bag a hat trick of winners, the latter piece seemingly a cathartic cleansing of the soul and exhumation, then exorcism, of whatever evil spirits there previously dwelt.
Unfortunately, they seem to have banished all of the actual tunes from the middle of ‘Our Toast’ as well. It’s all very well to focus on the magnificent harmony – something the ‘witches do consummately, this cannot be denied – but not at the cost of a decent melody. Truth is, midway through the album, it plods more than a drunken beat policeman wearing anchors for shoes midway through a wretchedly dull nightshift. I tried and I tried to persevere with these songs, but every time I listened to ‘Dead Prudence’, ‘Miggy‘ and ‘Island Jam’, I was so underwhelmed that I found myself completely forgetting they were even on the cd player, instead concentrating on making origami giraffes or putting my cheeses in alphabetical order, or whatever. Seriously, I lost count of the amount of times I thought “Bloody hell, is this song still going?”
Thankfully things pick back up again toward the arse end of the album, first with ‘Wickerman Mambo’ and then the charming ‘Nothing But Love’, but it’s too little too late to fully salvage it from its shortcomings.
I WANTED to love this album, I really did, and to some extent, I did. The crusts at each end of the sandwich (sorry) are magnificent enough to render a respectful enough rating but there’s no meat to chew on in between…which is a really weird thing for me to say actually, ’cause I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years…