Yep…it’s The Sawtelles, alright. I’d recognize them anywhere. Yet… wait. What’s happening here? Why do I like this more than usual?
It’s more minimalist, and it’s minimalist w/ more. The sax just slugged me. I’m knocked out loaded. Peter’s lyrics and as good as Dylan’s. Or Lou Reed’s. Julie’s drums are an ever-evolving and deepening dance. Richard belongs in The Sawtelles. This band remains familiar but continues to improve and widen and stretch. With each record, The Sawtelles scurry off, and I follow them down a rabbit hole only to discover another beautiful rabbit hole.
Keep ’em coming, You Bastards.
By Frank Critelli
The Sawtelles self-titled debut (subtitled “yellow”) is an exercise in minimalistic DIY that produces a refreshingly sparse, indie sound that subtlety runs much deeper when examined more closely.
Picture yourself walking into a Greenwich Village coffee house during the height of the early 60s beat poet era. As you sip your herbal tea, a trio launches into a groove that produces a sound so unique that it turns your attention from the libations to what is, or should I say isn’t, happening. It’s not an acoustic guitar, nor a soaring electric, but what sounds as one tuned as that of a banjo. Yet, Peter Riccio produces a very un-banjo-like sound with it. It’s not a drum kit, yet there are toms and a snare, with symbols of course, but no kick drum. How can you lay down a beat without a kick drum? Julie Riccio shows you that you need not overpower the beat to drive the song. And where is the bass? Oh, it’s there, supplying the rhythm so effortlessly that you don’t even realize it until the 3rd song, and once you do, you won’t be able to shake the once overlooked Peter Brunelli again.
What sets this CD so far apart from what has become the standard fare of these times is the approach these 3 musicians have taken. Combining an intense less-is-more musical sound with lyrics that produce some of the best life affirming statements to surface since those of the 60s coffee house dignitaries and Peter Riccio’s vocal style (that recalls a young Michael Stipe), The Sawtelles have created a testament to the simple joys of life.
Some may call it avante garde, but “Smasned to thr Floor” hands us a comparison of child to adult, and the adult who wishes to still be the child, but realizes that life is not that simple unless you grow and change. It is the allowance of change that will lead you to “…imagine / Waking up to find / You’re suddenly all you’ve hoped to be.” That is pretty straight forward.
Whether it’s the security of a fragile relationship that is threatened by the past (when it really shouldn’t be) in “So it Goes” (it’s here that the expansive spaces of the music allow for the voids to be filled by the vocals that represent an almost helpless yet satisfied feeling) or the insecurity of a relationship that exposes the privilege of essential life in “Space Aged And Girl Shy” where The Sawtelles lay at our feet; “It’s easy to forget in these times / That it’s a privilege to / be at all / to / laugh it off / to / Live it at all / to / love / to love at all,” the essence seeps through and fulfills us in ways that are difficult to express unless wrapped in the basic simplicity that The Sawtelles exude. They bring forth the realization that one of the most complex human emotions – Love – can be one of the simplest joys achieved when looked at it through the eyes of love itself.
And that central theme is no more present than on “3 Cheers”: one of the most positive feelings that one could direct to the physical aspects of two individuals’ love for each other. When our narrator sings his heart out (“like there is no tomorrow”) and claims “I’m going down / 3 cheers for love,” it gets right to the ecstasy, and you’re thinking ‘Oh Yeah!’ Then he lets us know how much real love is directed to his only object of desire when the feelings are vocally expressed accordingly with, “I love it best / when we can spend the day / Having nothing closer than / no distance between us.”
Think about that for a minute —–
It says it all.
Love doesn’t have to be complicated to work.
Neither does music.
I’m going down.
3 cheers for The Sawtelles.
Gary ‘G Gone” Vollano
The Sawtelles, Dime Museum
The Sawtelles are a spare duo, but remarkably complete: Just a drummer and a guitarist manage to fill out a whole spectrum of sound. What’s more, Dime Museum strikes a great balance throughout its 11-song length. The tunes are pretty and soothing without being soporific. The chords and playing styles are just familiar enough and just fresh enough. The singing is competent and varied and the lyrics are interesting, but neither dominates or overpowers the overall feel of the album. Part pop, part “indie”—whatever that means these days—The Sawtelles have found a satisfying mixture all their own. —Vivian Nereim, New Haven Advocate
Think of this as a lo-fi version of the White Stripes, with Peter Riccio as Jack White (voice, guitar) and Julie Riccio (voice, drums) as what’s her name. Happily, this pair doesn’t have the bloated affectations of the Motor City’s only profitable export. Their best songs (“Floor It,””Happy,””Side by Side”) are colored by steady acoustic strumming and simple but busy drumming…
By Alan Bisbort
Hartford Advocate (CT)