Sam & Me - The Battle of Hemsby

A lot can be said of the importance of ‘the whole package’. Not many bands have it. Some fall short on musical ability, while some may just lack that charisma that makes people fall in love with a group. It is the hardest goal a group can ever aim to achieve, and most will never get there. The trouble is that to make up for what you may be lacking in one part something else may have to be sacrificed to improve it, thus leaving you short in another area.

For Sam & Me their problem is simple. None of them really have singing voices. They can all hit a note, but there is a worrying lack of personality, originality or versatility to their vocals. So the answer can only be, sack the singers, get a new one in... But then, ah, they are with, erm, a singer...

Well this isn’t my job to fix! (Good luck PR man!) But the point still stands, Sam & Me are a group of four guys that specialize in producing delicate indie tunes, supported by dense backing vocals. The singing melodies and harmonies are similar to that of Simon & Garfunkel or Belle & Sebastian, but don’t have the same conviction or originality of either of these groups.

The opening track, and first single off the album, ‘Sonic Boomerang’, would suggest an aural assault of majestic proportions but in fact is probably the worst example of what this band can do. The song attempts to be something new and exciting, with tin drums, trumpets and whizzing sound effects. But instead, with the added annoyance of the tip-toeing vocals lacking the confidence to take the song by the scruff of the neck, it just comes out sounding like a college art project.

Thankfully the quality does pick up throughout the rest of the album, especially in the more stripped down numbers, and the most important thing to note is that this band has a great ear for a tune and can write damn good pop songs. But again and again the vocals and the production let them down.

A special note should be made for ‘If I Fall, Can I?’ which would, if it were not for the production, be quite awesome. Built on a strong foundation of deep and lush orchestration (and again those vocals) the song builds to a crescendo that could have power of Mogwai, but instead falls slightly short with a tickle of Snow Patrol.

There’s a hurdle that needs to be made here. Something has to give. Let’s just hope it’s not the band themselves.