It is tempting to be brutally scathing about acts who, like Pill Box Hat, attempt to substitute technical aptitude for imagination. Title track 'Sandown Row' is unbelievably bland, the sort of watered-down indie guitar music that - as a result of its total lack of commitment to anything inventive or arresting - would be perfect fodder for those commercial radio stations which play the odd bit of unchallenging rock or indie as a half-hearted gesture towards fans of guitar-based music.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this record, in the sense that its melodies, tight vocal harmonies and guitar solos - technically, at least - are spot on; but none of that counts for anything when the music has no emotional impact at all. The fact that the three songs on offer here follow the unoriginal formula of previous British indie acts is a small issue in comparison with the total lack of emotional genuineness on this record - lyrics like "Everything is gonna be all right" and "That's just the way life is" are simply insincere, being predictable clichés of this type of music, and one wonders whether they have made their way into the song through that personal need to transmit feelings through music, or simply through the cynical awareness that this is what this type of band is meant to sing about.
Being aware that different music can serve different functions, and that not all music is meant to be taken too seriously, it can be said in Pill Box Hat's favour that all of these songs would be fairly relaxing to listen to as background music, while doing something else a bit more engaging. It just seems a shame that what is quite obviously a set of talented musicians and song arrangers seem content to settle with something that lacked any originality whatsoever in its creation, and any passion whatsoever in its delivery.
3Mr Ben's Score