Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ham Sandwich - Live @ Whelan's, 23/02/08

Ham Sandwich are this year's Fight Like Apes, pretty much. That's despite the fact that Ham Sandwich have been around longer, releasing the single 'click... click... BOOM!!!' yonks ago, and the fact that Fight Like Apes were still playing two of their best live songs at 12.05am on January 1st, the band from Kells are taking the limelight now.

The show in Whelan's was the album launch for their debut release (aside from about four different singles over the last couple of years) Carry the Meek. I managed to catch their instore in HMV last Friday when the album was released, and from that intimate gig (well, in a basement with a lot of Xbox games) and from listening to that album over the last week, I knew it was going to be a great night.

Carry the Meek just gets better with every listen. It's a perfect punk-pop album in terms of length, with just 10 songs, and not an ounce of filler. That's not to say what it sounds like, though. Coincidentally I went back to listening to Green Day's Dookie this week, and parts of Carry the Meek replicate the honest intensity of that album. At other times, it delves into the shimmering beauty of post-rock and indie (mmm... Editors) hung together with the male and female vocals of Podge and Niamh. Those are the real secret of the band, the combination of the low and high registers; mostly it's Niamh singing. Since it's the usual topic of this blog, I guess it's a little bit 'emo' too: the opening to 'Keepsake' reminds of a Promise Ring guitar line, and if you don't think 'Click Click Boom' has wonderful dynamics, you're an idiot.

The short set in HMV ran through all the band's 'singles' songs: the opening pair of 'St. Christopher' (containing the album's title line) and 'Keepsake', 'Never Talk', 'Words', and I think 'Broken Glass', finished by 'Click Click Boom'. On purchasing the album, I was a little surprised to find all those songs heavily - that is to say, completely - weighted towards the first half of the album. Having the last four or so songs pass without recognition, it took a while to knowingly appreciate them but when I did, I realised they were less immediately poppy than the ones before and contained more space for the band to work in, creating what are all truly absorbing indie songs.

Ham Sandwich are a band both of complexity and of simplicity. Complex, because of the span and the depth of the songs as is evident on this album; and simple, because Ham Sandwich are still a catchy 3-minute-long-song band. Scroll down below for the acoustic performance of 'Click Click Boom' on The Last Broadcast show last year to see a perfect example of that combination, in a two-minute song. Dynamics!


'click... click... Boom!!!' (acoustic): Live on The Last Broadcast

Promo video for 'St. Christopher':

Promo video for 'Keepsake':

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