Like the most pleasant of unexpected surprises, I happened upon the self-titled debut album from The Sammies when I was sifting through some SXSW 2006 bands. Not sure what to expect (having only heard traces of a song on Internet radio), I popped it in for an Austin-to-Houston drive and couldn’t pull it out of my CD player. Mark my words, they may become your new favorite band (for now).
A quartet based in North Carolina, their debut album is a masterful 13 songs of equal parts brooding post-punk and crusty Southern rock. Imagine you fell into a coma sometime in the early 1980s, after listening to nothing but The Psychedlic Furs and Joy Division, only to awaken for the sounds of My Morning Jacket and Kings of Leon. Then you got out of your hospital bed, went down to the pawn shop to fetch a guitar, and started a band. Your band would sound a lot like the sonic assault that is The Sammies.
The band’s first single, “Falling Out,” could be a Top 40 hit you wouldn’t hate yourself for loving. It’s the sort of infectious indie-rock anthem that marries blissful guitar chords and a hummable chorus, till death do they part. Loud, fast, and relentless, the rest of the album’s tunes are just as fierce and just as unforgettable. With shuffling drumwork by Donnie Yale, and one helluva secret weapon in guitarist Murphy Upshaw, this album must’ve been made by seasoned vets. You look at the CD sleeve, though, and they can’t be older than 30. I can’t recall a better debut rock record to come our way in 2006…
(Illustration courtesy of the band’s MySpace page.)
… Meanwhile, substantive songs like the Interpol-tinged “For John” or an irreverent, Talking Heads-aside like “Angry Robots Revolt,” are just a taste of what this cannonball can deliver. Better yet, take a listen to the guitars and drums on “Let It Go,” and I dare you to not be a new fan. And, “Falling Out” may be a dangerous single to follow, but the band manages to do the trick with power-pop/blues-stomps such as “Cornerstore” or “Panther Leap,” highlighting vocalist Frank Backgammon and bassist Gymmy Thunderbird’s mad skills. In 13 songs, there is no letting up. No ballads or acoustic numbers, just textured rock ‘n’ roll with a subversive heart. It’s polished. It’s ragged. It’s pure rock. “Kings of the Hoedown” or “Trainwreck” are balances of British rock and Southern blues in that same way that made bands like Cream or even the Rolling Stones sound more-than-expected.
People are always looking for an undiscovered gem… this is your chance. The Sammies’ album drops June 27, and after that, they are destined to become the darling of every hipper-than-thou indie-pop kid. Get to this album before your kid brother does.