I came across this vinyl copy of Ham Sandwich’s 2008 debut LP Carry the Meek at, of all places, Tower Records in Dublin. I was certainly surprised to find a Tower Records there… but slightly disappointed by the small size of their “Irish Vinyl” section (though, to be fair, the “Irish CDs” section was quite large). Ham Sandwich looked like one of the more interesting bands in that bin, and since I was without any internet access most of my purchases were, out of necessity, shots in the dark. The band had a certain 90s quality to their look and a girl with fangs on the jacket, plus the vinyl was a numbered limited edition of 300, so why not.
I’m not sure where to go with Carry the Meek. Reviews from the time it came out were somewhat mixed, including at least one particularly snarky and brutal one on entertainment.ie. I don’t mind cracking wise from time to time, but I try to make a point of not trashing albums, and not criticizing them in witty ways, which smacks of trying to make yourself look smart at the expense of someone else. In the interest of full disclosure, early in the lifespan of Life in the Vinyl Lane I wrote and posted two or three such reviews, but I came to realize that I was being pretty douchey and took them down. Feel free to be critical. Just be respectful. People work hard on these albums, certainly a lot harder than you did in writing the review.
Anyway… musically Carry the Meek has that sort of 1990s indie sound to it even though it came out a decade later. It’s somewhat low key, though at times the sound can get fuller and richer. The real defining element of Ham Sandwich’s sound, however, at least on Carry the Meek, is the sonic relationship between the male and female vocalists, Podge McNamee and Niamh Ferrell. Truth be told I have a hard time with this combo. It’s sort of like Ian Curtis and Frances McKee teaming up, and their voices never quite mesh for me. Both are good on their own, particularly Ferrell, who is in fact excellent in her solo segments, but together I just never come away feeling like it all fit. That being said, a lot of people love how this pair sounds together, and McNamee has since moved on and been replaced by another male voice so I’d be curious to see how Ham Sandwich sounds today – they’ve sort of renamed themselves Hamsandwich, and their newest album Stories from the Surface just came out last month. There’s enough to like on Carry the Meek to warrant at least giving Stories from the Surface a listen.