Digging into Sword & Sandals isn’t hard even if you don’t know the back story (well, not a story, per se, but John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees/Coachwhips/Landed is in this band, along with Randy Sutherland and Shaun O’Dell) because it hits you right in the deep-guts as soon as the untitled first track kicks in. Dwyer’s a shit-packing drummer but the insane sax semantics of O’Dell and Sutherland steal the show, like two birds swan diving into and around each other — Black Eyes-style — in a crazed war dance of death. OF DEATH! [Don't forget, Dwyer's also in Dig That Body Up It's Alive!)
Then out of NOwhere things get a little sexy. Dwyer bats around a little, albeit softly (he seems to be playing with brushes throughout Good & Plenty but don't quote me on that), and the sax snorters do less lines of blow, jumping in and out of the mix with finesse and panache. It's all in the name of a quality jam, as I'm pretty sure Sword & Sandals is a side project for everyone involved (Sutherland's in Control R Workshop and Thin Ensemble, O'Dell is a solo performer).
It's got that rusty edge though, that feeling that the train is derailing and nothing can save it, hawking up snot into a bathtub and somehow turning it into gin or some shit. There are long stretches where little occurs but some cymbal tapestries and piano pounding, yet boredom is never an option. When the proceedings get louder and darker, however, you'll lose your mind trying to follow the smoke trails the trio form before ducking into another artistic corner, then another, then another.
The saxes are majestic. One croaks while the other chirps; one comps while the other spins in place; one blows hard while the other sews a softer seed, all the while neither leaving the listener out of the equation. For the degree of avant found within, Good & Plenty delivers a lot of hard reed-riffing and huff-puff-PUFF-ing.
I must return to Dwyer's drumming -- it's flam-boyant and high rollin', all energy and wit and unorthodoxy bundled into a package you won't refuse if it shows up at your door. Anyone can conjure a decent rhythm -- I've seen a million guitar players jump on the drums, thinkin' they's somethin' special -- but Dwyer, whether he does or doesn't have a ton of experience behind the skins, possesses an innate intuition for scatter-shot, blurry percussion that speaks loud as any vocalist could. Firecracker snares and tumbleweed high-hat rumbles just don't get much stock these days; they should.
Good & Plenty ... is it sold out? Probably. So you'll have to shell out some bucks, what's the big deal? Figure it out ... the vinyl is thick, gentlemen.