The good thing about Chicago's Smith Westerns is that their
music is richly referential. The bad thing about Smith Westerns is
that their music is also richly referential. On good moments, their
guitar fuzz cuts through songs like the ghost of George Harrison
and their humming sound and vocal meter would make the Lemonheads
But on bad moments, the songs drudge along and lead-singer Cullen
Omori's vocals get a little wheezy. That is not to say that the
band itself is destined for oblivion. The guitar work is fresh and
invigorating and tends to carry the album through most of the muddiness.
On "Still New", Max Kakacek's riff bellows like a
mushroom cloud in a sea of chorus. "All Die Young", bolstered
by piano and organ, glides along pleasingly and displays the band's
ability to downshift into a wholly divergent gear. "Smile",
maybe the best track on the album, is shimmery and anthemic in the
vein of Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" - as Omori sings,
"God it's a waste of time/But the sun still shines/And it shines
for you." But just as things are
taking perpetual flight, "Dance Away" chimes in like a sharp
divorce. Songs in this structure, while poppy and cute, only seem
to have secured a spot on the album as a nod to indie credibility.
All things said, Smith Westerns could use a little more time to
incubate. "Dye The World",
which closes the album, should be the barometer for the future.
The vocals acquiesce, the
guitars get bloody, and the mid-tempo composition rises and falls
on cue. The song itself also
deviates from the worship-laden musical references to their heroes
and exhibits a birthmark
more their own.
-K. K. Coe
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