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All Through The Night
The Sand Band All Through The Night
Released 14 January 2011

David McDonnell,
Scott Marmion
Label Deltasonic, Co-op
Length 39:35
Genre Alternative
Website myspace.com/thesandband

That Liverpool seems to produce more than its fair share of great bands has never been in doubt since the Merseybeat days of the ‘60s. However, of late, The Wirral in particular seems to be emerging as a hot spot for scouse talent. 2010’s Butterfly House proved that The Coral are still the masters of retro pop and now their fellow Wirralians, The Sand Band, release their debut album All Through The Night to further prove that there must be something special in that Mersey water.

Just like The Coral, The Sand Band don't seem to be too bothered with making generic pop music, if you’re looking for the new Scouting For Girls you’ve come to the wrong place. Opening track, 'Set Me Free', is a heartfelt acoustic number given a country slant with guitarist Scott Marmion’s use of the pedal steel which arcs beautifully over the music adding atmosphere without stealing the limelight. The track that follows, 'To Be Where You Are', achieves a more rustic folk sound, light on percussion, heavy on echo filled vocal harmonies. 'The Song that Sorrow Sings' is a downbeat love song with tinges of hopefulness replete with bird song throughout. The first three songs show a versatility and maturity that you don’t necessarily expect in a debut album.

There is a strong religious theme that emerges from All Through The Night, the first major instance coming with 'The Secret Chord' with its striking images of judgment- "We will be judged / On the things that we have done" and damnation- "Fires burning below me". The song title is an obvious nod to Leonard Cohen’s 'Hallelujah' with the singer David McDonnell looking to find God’s grace in his darkest moments. 'Burn This House Down' is pure Southern Gospel down to the church organ used in the chorus. Again vivid images are used; cleansing fires and holy wars offering a more critical look at religion and suggest a writer at odds with his beliefs in the modern world. Far be it from me to argue the virtues of the religious way of life but the depth of the lyrics makes a refreshing change to being told “she’s so lovely” over and over again.

The underlying theme of this album is that of one long lullaby to send the listener to sleep. The name of the band appears to be a reference to the sleep bringing Sand Man, All Through The Night is an equally appropriate title given the slumbering undercurrents. The minimal use of percussion, the slow tempo and the low dynamics are designed to put the listener at ease while the pedal steel guitar that pops up throughout feels like drawn out yawns set to music (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). The proof for this idea comes with the outro of the album where a relaxing voice guides the listener into a meditative sleep using vocal suggestions that will sound familiar to anyone who has tried hypnosis to give up smoking.

The beauty of All Through The Night lies in the band’s ability to hold back their talents, most notably they avoid the overuse of the pedal steel guitar, an instrument that sounds immense when used properly but can easily descend into country pastiche with overindulgence. Likewise
Jay Sharrock’s drums are kept sensible, picking his moments to insert some nice flourishes but generally letting the guitars and vocals dictate the pace.

This is a touching and honest debut that sets The Sand Band up as one to watch for the future. Hopefully rumours of Noel Gallagher sounding them out as his potential backing band for when he relaunches his career prove to be false. While it would be an indication of the high esteem they are already held in, they have a whole lot more to offer as a band in their own right. This is an album that should be enjoyed late at night, and not while operating heavy machinery.

- Brian Kinsella