Today’s POP RESCUE from obscurity, is the 2006 debut album Smile… It Confuses People by Scottish singer and songwriter Sandi Thom. Can this album put a Smile on your face, or are you left in a state of Confusion? Read on…
This cover of this album proudly states in a sticker on the front ‘the singer who webcast to the world from her tooting basement‘, showing off the sudden social media rise that Sandi had. But, will this 10 track album be any good? Let’s find out…
The album opens with the oddly named When Horsepower Meant What It Said, presumably a song for all those people who still haven’t quite come to terms with the industrial revolution. Guitar strum begins the song leading into handclaps, a wonderfully funky bassline, and egg shaker, as Sandi takes on the first verse. There’s some great vocal harmonies here, which prop her vocals up. She reminds me of Allison Moorer – a bit pop but with a scoop of country style.
This is followed by the sole charting single I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair), which really shows off her vocals as most of the times she’s singing over a simple percussive rhythm. Occasionally extra drums join her with some handclaps, but otherwise it’s minimal as she sings about wishing she was born earlier. Quite how this became a #1 single, i’ll never know.
Piano leads the next song Lonely Girl, which is a much stronger and better formed song. This is quite a nice catchy song, with a full range of musical instruments helping the song to build. Sandi’s vocals continue to reign, even as growly guitars and sweeping strings join in. This was released as a single, but failed to chart.
Sunset Borderline follows this, which is a mid-tempo, ballad. It’s backing vocals make it almost a bit dreamlike as the guitar and gentle beat lure you through the song. Sandi’s vocals again sound fairly country music styled and like Allison Moorer.
Up next is Little Remedy which has a familiar melody in the chorus – sounding somewhat like a slowed down version of The Jacksons‘ hit I Want You Back. Sandi’s vocals dance across a lovely beat and strumming guitars with little effort. The end result is an up-beat, catchy, little track.
A slinky bass line and guitar riff opens Castles, feeling like it’s a sample from an old Otis Redding track – but it’s not. It also sees some lovely little harmonica moments thrown in amongst the guitars and vocals. It’s a really nice little song – simple, but along with the vocals, it fits perfectly.
Next song What If I’m Right starts with a ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ intro, which for that brief moment instantly reminded me of Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo‘s hit Help! The reality of the rest of the track is another mid-tempo guitar, handclap, bass and vocal harmony track, although this is pretty catchy, it is fairly similar to the rest of the album so far. Again, the harmonica gets some great parts to play. This was the second and final single from the album, which by contrast reached #22 in the UK.
What sounds a bit like a lullaby to start with, Superman lacks any heroic man of steel moments (which is the point of the song – ‘don’t want, superman don’t need wonderland, just want you to love me‘ she sings) instead it’s Sandi singing softly over guitar, and a tinkling saloon-style piano. Her voice is softer here, fitting perfectly with the softer percussion.
The pace picks up for the handclaptastic The Human Jukebox, which feels like a much stronger track with heaver guitars and even sharper vocals. This is a fun, up-beat song, and at times a little catchy.
The album closes with the delicate vocals of Time, which opens with some beautiful lush acoustic guitar and dreamy vocals, aided by plenty of well placed ‘ooh‘s. It’s a nice ending to this mellow album.
Where is Sandi Thom now?
Since finding success with the album and lead single, and the moderate success of her second single, Sandi didn’t return to the UK charts until 2008 with single The Devil’s Beat, which stalled at #58 in the UK. It was taken by her second and final charting UK album, The Pink & The Lily, which reached #25.
Despite not repeating the commercial success of her debut, she has continued to record, release and perform. She left the UK and is now continuing her career in the USA, where she often coaches young people in how to work in an ever-changing music industry.
Her most recent album Covers Collection was released in 2013, featuring acoustic covers of songs by artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Fleetwood Mac that she listened to in her teens.
Over all, whilst Sandi achieved a number 1 debut single and album through success on the internet, the rest of this album was a little different from her lead single.
The album is fairly folk/country styled, and therefore the media attention perhaps caught the interest of a wider audience who were perhaps expecting something more punk rock or indie.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2006 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.