The Veils - Sungangs
Back in the old days, when a sandwich was something you cobbled together from two slices of Mother's Pride and not some fancy Italian thing that requires the engineering skills of a barista who's never been passed Clapham let alone to Milan just to squash it into an edible form, bands made better records. This is not just nostalgia as viewed through the rose-tinted spectacles of a midlife crisis but rather the somewhat belated acknowledgment of a self-evident truth: namely that the so-called limits of vinyl were in fact not limits after all.
As a format, the 12 inch both constrained a band and yet allowed them to showcase themselves in the best possible light, cutting out the padding and flabbiness that seem to engulf the modern band's attempt to justify the invention of the digital format.
Sungangs, the third album from New Zealander via Blighty's Finn Andrews and friends (and produced by Graham Sutton of BSP fame) could easily lose half its songs and be all the better for it. At times, the lyrics are lazy and the tunes derivative and although Andrews' distinctive vocal style carries the excellent Springsteen-like Sit Down by the Fire and ‘80's inspired The Letter (a cross between Big Country and Laura Branigan); by the time Three Sisters with it's Led Zeppelin III guitars rolls up, you're left wondering whether quality control is just too last year.
It's a difficult line to tread between showcasing your influences and ending up with a pastiche of them and Andrews is always in danger of slipping off the knife-edge that separates them. The album is not so much eclectic as like a pick and mix sweet stall: faced with so many styles, it's all too easy for the listener to come away with no strong impression of the album, which is a shame as when the vocals, lyrics and tunes come together on tracks such as the sparse and heart wrenching Sungangs and The House She Lives In, it really works.
There are the bones of a good album in here, but it's choked by filler such as Scarecrow and the 8 min plus “Doors-meets-Plant” orgy of Larkspur till one can't help but wonder where the genius behind the Gothic romance of Lavinia and The Leaver's Dance has gone. On this showing, buried under the weight of not having quite enough to say to justify a new release; at least not just yet.
Words: Cold Ethyl