posted on March 12, 2008 05:53
A review of the album 'Carry The Meek' by Ham Sandwich
Review Snapshot: We could say that Ham Sandwich's debut is filling while having no filler, but that'd be very laboured and boring and 'Carry The Meek' is neither of those things. It's catchy and confident, drawing on '90s US college alt-pop and featuring an impressive performance from co-singer Niamh Farrell. With several radio-friendly singles already to its credit, this is the first of 2008's great Irish albums.
The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10
Ham Sandwich, a terribly bland name for a band? Au contraire! What other Irish act is getting this much attention just for their name? And it's surely no worse than calling your group something lame and unoriginal like Nirvana or Oasis.
At the other extreme, it's unfortunate that Podge McNamee's perceived wackiness has coloured many people's reaction to the band and their music. However crucial he may be to the band's visual image and live show, on record he couldn't be said to hog the limelight - he has few lead vocals, no epic guitar solos and there isn't any song here called 'My Name Is Podge'.
Contrary to those expectations, then, the Kells group's debut album is neither blandly boring nor irritatingly wacky. If anything, 'Carry The Meek' could have done with a bit more idiosyncrasy - it depends greatly on the familiar chugging rhythm of US indie bands of the last decade, and the slower tempo of the closing tracks (especially 'Sleep' and 'Thru The Grass') ends the album on a relative downer. That said, the anthemic 'Sleep' is a fine song, and second-last track 'Ashes' has an epic touch to it too.
The first half of the album has more character about it, thanks in no small part to the impressive Niamh Farrell. She swoons and soars her way through the charming 'St Christopher' and 'Keepsake' before turning on some serious rock n'roll attitude for 'Click... Click... BOOM!!!' The latter's thuggish bassline intro and triumphant chorus make it the album's standout track.
McNamee and his deep rumbling voice, as noted above, keep a relatively low profile and generally confines his vocals to backing or repeating Farrell's lines. Only in the middle of 'Never Talk' do the two sing different lyrics, and the song is all the more exciting for the dramatic tension it suggests. Perhaps this pair can capitalise on their strong personalities to greater effect in future, playing off each other more in their lyrics and arrangements to capture the two-up-front strike force of their live shows.
As for the album to hand, it's radio-friendly and well-produced by Karl Odlum, and the time devoted to recording it has paid off handsomely. And with all the attention lavished upon the band's two singers, let's not overlook main songwriter and bassist Johnny Moore, who has contributed some expertly-crafted pop songs (like 'Words') full of wistful romance and broken hearts.
Quite simply, this record sounds great. 'Carry The Meek' is a marker that other Irish albums of 2008 - and beyond - will have to match.