Gaffa Tape Sandy – ‘Family Mammal’

By Andy Joice

Bury St Edmunds via Brighton outfit Gaffa Tape Sandy are flying. One of NME’s 100 Essential Acts for 2018, they’ve supported the likes of Indoor Pets, IDLES, and Peace, as well as having played numerous festivals to critical acclaim. Gaffa Tape Sandy have produced just two short EPs to date, but every track is infectious and almost demands repeat listening, with more hooks and earworms than a fishing tackle shop.

So while ‘Family Mammal’ might be their second EP – and in some circles, eight tracks counts as an album – they’ve set themselves a high bar to follow. Luckily, it’s well surpassed.

From the opening riff of firm fan favourite ‘Beehive’, a track released as a single in 2018, it’s clear what this record is. A feel good, energetic, yet subtly conscious jaunt. With a chorus that sticks in the head like maple syrup glue and harmonies bouncing between vocalists Kim Jarvis and Catherine Lindley-Neilson, it’s an emphatic first track.

Followed by ‘Meathead’, it really is a one-two combo of stunningly catchy singles. Touching on sexual consent and unwanted advances, it’s a hard-hitting subject tackled in a loud and obnoxious way as Lindley-Neilson states ‘that makes you the worst kind of criminal / wait till they catch you’.

The real progression in this EP is the use of Lindley-Neilson’s vocals. While in previous EPs she’s predominantly been on harmonising duties (with a couple of exceptions), she takes lead vocals on half the tracks found on ‘Family Mammal’ – most notably ‘Dinner Jacket’. While ‘Meathead’ might see her at her most aggressive, ‘Dinner Jacket’ is saccharin sweet and delicately refined. It isn’t till the back half that we hear Jarvis adding his trademark rasping harmonies as the track explodes in a mess of noise and frenetic energy. Good mess.

It’s not just Lindley-Neilson who has pushed herself to become a better vocalist. The slower tempo of ‘Turnstile’, a track they’ve been gigging for well over a year and is now making its first studio appearance, forces Jarvis to be cleaner and less strained. It’s a welcome addition that resonates with a chorus of ‘I’m apathetic and happy and passionate and sad at the same time’.

Couple ‘Turnstile’ with lead single ‘Headlights’, and there’s a clear message about mental health. While the former is self-reflective, the latter punches the line ‘I think you’re a little bit sadder than you let on’, offering an open hand and a calming message that, regardless of the situation, talking things through will help.

The glue that holds everything together is drummer Robin Francis. Behind all the clever harmonies and hooks is Francis pointing everything in the right direction. Possibly the most unassuming member of the band, he’s an absolute demon with sticks and manages to keep all the potentially difficult subjects – mental health, sexual consent, relationship issues – heavy, without drowning them out.

It’s difficult not to wax lyrical about ‘Family Mammal’. You could put the tracklist on a wall, throw a dart and whatever song it lands on, it’s almost guaranteed to have a memorable chorus. For a band that are still relatively young, they have no issues writing powerful garage rock. The harmonies between Jarvis and Lindley-Neilson make them instantly recognisable; couple that with their social observations and pounding melodies, and there’s nowhere to go but up.

If you’re not familiar with Gaffa Tape Sandy by now, get on it. Because they’re only going to get bigger and better.

ANDY JOICE

Three more album reviews for you

Knocked Loose - A Different Shade Of Blue

Noah Gundersen - 'Lover'

LIVE: 2000Trees Festival 2019 - Saturday