Smith Westerns : Dye It Blonde

It's always timely to release a record in the new year, after the fatigue of all those end-of-year lists - the excitement for something new is doubly optimistic. Benefiting from just this situation is the sophomore album from Chicago four-piece Smith Westerns. Boosting their profile at a time when releases are thin on the ground, it's a record that deserves the calendar space regardless.


Dye It Blonde finds the group fulfilling the rough promise of their debut, the adolescent energy evolving to a svelte mastery of their elements. The record opens with the pitch-perfect Weekend, its fuzzy guitar and Cullen Omori's breathy vocals dominating its sharp pop delivery and setting the mood for what's to follow. Next is Still New, a deft modern rewrite of Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes, then Imagine Pt. 3 sways a similarly swagging path towards the remainder of the album's highlights, the appropriately feet-tempting Dance Away and woozy Fallen In Love to name a few.

The glam-meets-garage-rock sound of their scuzzy debut hasn't been ditched so much as amalgamated into their new sonic cornerstone: nineties Britpop. The influence is there in the shimmering Pulp-synths, those cutting guitar lines could come straight from early Supergrass, and there's more than a dose of Teenage Fanclub's power-pop to their structure.



It's fun to hear such elements in indie rock again, and the hazy production that accompanies it (in particular the brusque keyboard textures) are the aural equivalent of looking through rose-tinted glasses. It works wonderfully onEnd Of The Night with its keys breakdown of "everybody wants to be a star on a Saturday night" and so too the anthemic peak of All Die Young's chorus of "Love is lovely when you are young."


It's a pretty clunky line, sure, but its doe-eyed naivety perfectly encapsulates Smith Western's adolescent vigour, after all, it's made by four guys barely out of their teens. Their music is fun precisely because it bubbles with a youth untarnished by more serious lyrical and musical concerns.


It's light, frothy pop music with song titles like Smile and Dance Away with equally obvious couplets to accompany them. Such as Imagine Pt. 3's clichéd "Girl can't you see what you're doing to me." But it's executed so confidently, with such enjoyable melodic scope and efficiency, that you can't dismiss it as merely a facsimile of the best bits of '60s and '90s chart hits. Dye It Blonde is a determined, focussed record from a band who, even in the youthful stages of their career, are as much about professionalism as attitude, but always with equally enjoyable musical results.


Best Track: All Die Young

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In A Word : Retro

Label : Spunk