It’s been over a decade since a new release from The Whitlams, and Sancho doesn’t disappoint the faithful. The album’s title track, written for the band’s late tour manager Greg Weaver, is a six-minute mini-epic that evokes a collection of memories mashed together from different parts of a big tour (or big night). It’s a morbid genre, the musical obituary, but singer-songwriter Tim Freedman shows again that no one does misery-tinged pop piano better.
Of course, there’s always been much more to The Whitlams than the tragedy of losing dear friends too soon, with specialities in love songs and cheeky pop ditties (sometimes combined as well as separate) also present here. Those here for the love are served well by openers Catherine Wheel and Nobody Knows I Love You, while the cheekier side of things move in with (You’re Making Me Feel Like I’m) 50 Again. With its glorious retro keys and older and wiser ‘ooh oohs’, is this a sequel to I Make Hamburgers, getting ‘all the girls’ but now with sensible shoes?
Songs that are upbeat without being saccharine are also still Freedman’s speciality – here Man About A Dog and Cambridge Three both take that mantle, hooky as well as familiar without being old hat. Listen hard, lyric lovers, there are some crackers in here too. In the same vein is Sancho In Love – although with some quirky time changes to keep the listener on their toes (or perhaps to give life to a different set of stories to the title track). The outro in particular here is epic – dear listener, try and keep your air guitar in its case, I dare you.
Freedman and his band have also always been great deliverers of story songs, although this time tales of wayward drummers and girls who got away are replaced by legit criminals with Ballard Of Bertie Kidd. Another six-minute track, over successive verses the narrative goes south and the story ends, sort of, with a capture – deliberately unresolved (and apparently with the blessing of the real-life Bertie, now in his ‘80s).
Overall, a mixed bag rather than a themed album, and while there are flashes of the different ‘types’ of Whitlams of the past, Sancho carves its own path.