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Smith Westerns
Dye It Blonde
Fat Possum Records
www.fatpossum.com


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 grin.

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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Mike Doughty



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