Gaffa Tape Sandy have been making waves over the last couple of years, winning over BBC Introducing’s Huw Stephens, making an NME list of bands to watch in 2018, and supporting the likes of IDLES, Peace, and Indoor Pets. Today, they release their new EP, Family Mammal, on Alcopop! Records, and it all kicks off with a review from a little kid called Isaac, who yells that Gaffa Tape Sandy make ‘BANGING TUNES!’ He’s not wrong – this hook-drenched EP is one of the most undeniably fun releases of the year.
It’s also really long – 8 tracks, which begs the question of why they didn’t go the whole hog and release an album. But this EP is overflowing with imagination, so maybe they’ve actually got an album’s wort of equally infectious bangers all lined up and ready for them to take over the indie pop scene with a debut next year. As it is, Family Mammal is probably the best possible introduction to this impossibly likeable band, which bounces the listener from one extraordinarily catchy song to the next, barely pausing for breath as it hurtles through ‘banging tune’ after ‘banging tune’.
Fan favourite Beehive kicks the whole EP off. It’s the song that got them the attention of BBC Introducing’s Huw Stephens and the NME, and it makes perfect sense to put it front and centre of the new EP. It’s a superb off-kilter garage punk song, which chases a killer riff into a huge chorus, and features one of those sing-along bits you’ll find yourself humming for weeks after hearing it.
It’s followed by last year’s Meathead single – another incredibly fun banger (of course), with a little more about it lyrically than Beehive. Bassist Catherine moves on to lead vocals to address rape culture, and the behaviour that continues to exacerbate it. The song hits hard, but it follows the GTS pattern of slathering everything in pop hooks and winning melodies to help it all go down incredibly smoothly.
My Desperate House is next, and for the opening few moments it feels as though GTS are going to slow the pace down a bit and give us a bit of a breather, but it quickly gets itself going, dragging the listener happily behind it. The track is a little more direct than the first couple on the record, with another impossibly catchy chorus that sounds like some unholy union between Alkaline Trio and Fountains of Wayne.
This year’s Headlights single is up next, a bouncy, gleeful anthem, that uses the pure unbridled joy of the music – and this is a track that really is beaming with sunshine – to convey an important message about mental health. ‘It’s a long drive, with your headlights out’ seems to be guitarist Kim calling for the listener (or themselves) to open up for the sake of their own future, telling us ‘I think our a little bit sadder than you let on’.
Another single next (this record is chock full of hits), in the form of waltzing rocker So Dry. The lyrics are somewhat opaque – supposedly this is the band letting out their more spiteful side come to the surface. And perhaps it’s the time signature tricky my ears, but something about it really reminds me of Martha’s So Sad (So Sad), perhaps in the repeated chorus line ‘so damn dry’ – not that that’s any bad thing.
Dinner Jacket finally does give us a bit of a breather, as Gaffa Tape Sandy ease off the accelerator a bit to bring us the prettiest song on the EP. It’s built around a really simple riff backed by a persistent kick drum, and trades on a bit of nostalgia to offer something truly charming – just try not to smile when Catherine sings ‘here’s the church and here’s the steeple’. Lyrically it seems to be about meeting up with someone from your childhood and seeing how much distance has now grown between you.
Turnstile kicks the tempo back up a notch, as Kim returns to lead vocal for a song that at its core seems to be about it being OK to be OK with yourself. It also features one of the EP’s best sing along moments in the repeated line: ‘I’m apathetic, and happy, and passionate and sad at the same time’
Kill the Chord brings the EP to a close, and it‘s probably their most straight-ahead rock song. Lyrically it irreverently asks what the point is of Shakespeare, Bjork, Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Bob Dylan and Michelangelo, encouraging people not to feel intimidated by the idea of having to live up to what others have done before. Just because you might not paint Starry Night, write A Midsummer Night’s Dream or sculpt David doesn’t mean that what you make isn’t art – which makes it all the more ironic that the opening couple of notes on the guitar really remind me of the opening riff of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. There’s probably a bit less to this track than the other songs on the record, but it’s an empowering message nonetheless, and is executed with Gaffa Tape Sandy’s typically deft touch with melody.
And then, finally, this mammoth EP is finished. Perhaps the reason they decided not to go the whole hog on a full album is the inclusion of those older tracks Beehive and Meathead, which would be completely understandable. Without those tracks, this would be a quality EP, but including them offers a bonus for their old fans, and won’t hurt bringing new fans on board. Anyone who hasn’t heard Gaffa Tape Sandy before will discover in Family Mammal a joy-filled record absolutely stuffed with ideas, hooks and melodies from one of the most exciting indie bands in the country. To quote Isaac, it’s full of ‘BANGING TUNES’, and I can’t wait to hear a full album. And also, it has a very handsome dog on the cover, and who could resist that?