Album Review: Sand Brothers – when ‘Too Much Sky’ is never enough. A magnificent, poetic debut with launch date announced.

The Breakdown

'Too Much Sky' is a brilliant and stately release - filled with a certain poignancy and veracity, unashamedly Australian, unashamedly pop, willing to experiment with sounds and emotions that combine to create nine classic, immersive tracks.
Summer Storm Records 8.8

Sand Brothers have just released their debut album ‘Too Much Sky’ – a collection of poised and celestial songs that sparkle with a rough-hewn edge and a deep poignancy. The album is a perfect whole – a series of beautifully crafted songs that have a unique and refreshing vibrancy.

Sand Brothers is a new musical project from Greg Walker (Machine Translations) and Rick Sands (The Night Party), along with Pete Cook (Yamamoto), Din Roberts (Kutcha Edwards Band) and Glen Scarlett (Oak). ‘Too Much Sky’ is an enormously satisfying debut.

Opening track ‘Adelaide’ is a jangling, sparkling slice of antipodean summer. Containing a genetic core that tips its cork-ringed Akubra hat at bands like The Go-Betweens and The Chills, with an added pure pop sixties-inflected guitar shimmer, this track positively glistens and trembles with a twelve-string brilliance and mountainous melodies.

The lyrics have a poetic romantic elegance about them:

When I see you on an empty street
all the bells ring out.
Which one of us has the most to lose?
You know I’d pick you out in any crowd.
Won’t you put my hands back on the wheel?
If you kiss me once, I’ll know you’re real.

This is bright shiny stuff tempered by a little dusting of melancholy and yearning.

Burnished with a Hammond organ filigree, ‘The Usual Things’ is an expansive cinematic track that seems to exude from every sonic pore a dusty Australiana that reflects long endless road trips across red deserts under clear blue skies.

The impassioned vocals exhorts like an urging preacher – genetic elements of The Triffids cannot be ignored with the declamatory exposition – and the chorus soars skywards with harmonies and passion. This is a compelling track that is threaded with a melancholy and urgency.

Rick Sands says of the track:

The bulk of the verses were written about 20 years ago, when I’d become itinerant and living out of my old van in Far North Queensland. It languished in a notebook incomplete, but in the weeks leading up to our last recording session, I happened upon it and knew it deserved further work.

The day before recording, the chorus dropped in out of the ether and I trimmed it all down to a tight, core feeling. The band was introduced to the arrangement on the day and it was the last song of the session. This is the third and final take. We were beat: soaked in summer heat and sweat. We rewound the tape and knew we’d captured what we were after.

The result is something quintessentially antipodean but with a universal appeal.

A barbed-wire edge to the vocals add a visceral edge that streams into ‘Tied To You’ where the vocals have a Robert Forster-like earnest tone with a knowing self-deprecatory lyrical twist. The wild synths and guitars add an unexpected element, contrasting with the gentle refrain.

An arpeggiated undercurrent provides a different sound to ‘Dead End Road’ where Sand Brothers adopt an anthemic cinematic approach worthy of a band like U2 – the song burning like a spark at the opening and building up like a forest fire.

Channelling a little zany early Split Enz with its spirally synth riff,  ‘Spirit Animal’ has all the high stepping lilt of a whirligig anthem with a serious tale to tell. According to the band,

The song charts the journey of our protagonist, from his rural idyll, on into the heart of the Spanish Civil War as he desperately makes his way to his lost love – or something like that. Just turn it up and let it take you somewhere.

It’s a brightly sparkling track with a muscular bass and a melody that sticks like super glue. It has the furnished gold of an eighties classic – a nod at bands like Misex or MEO245. Sand Brothers are definitely developing their own contemporary style that burns with an intensity and drive.

‘Something Wonderful Is About To Happen’ is a jaunty, wry piece that high steps its way through the speakers with a swirl and a wah-wah blast. This is a twisting joy – a fey and arch delivery with a whimsical turn. Again, another example of the antipodean flare redolent of the Flying Nun era.

‘Waters Still’ floats through like a single billowing cloud in the deep blue sky and with a bounce and verve that would sit right next to anything by The Flaming Lips or Pavement. With a reference to the album title in the lyrics, this has a cool exuberance, a bright optimistic and euphoric sheen that builds up to a climax.

Final track ‘Stolen Poetry’ dials back the bounce and floats instead on an ambulant, liquid bass and swirling organ. It’s a seven minute long hypnotic trip that seduces. The brittle, vulnerable vocals are quiet and reflective above a jangling guitar – half spoken with a broad Australian accent. It’s a beautiful and stately with a heart-breaking delivery that envelopes and hypnotises – reminding me at times of the legendary Died Pretty with a psychedelic edge. It’s a fitting conclusion to a magnificent journey.

‘Too Much Sky’ is a brilliant and stately release – filled with a certain poignancy and veracity, unashamedly Australian, unashamedly pop, willing to experiment with sounds and emotions that combine to create nine classic, immersive tracks.

‘Too Much Sky’ is out now through Summer Storm Records and available through the link above and via all the usual download and streaming sites. You can catch the band launching the album on 20 May – see below for details and get your tickets here.

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