Those who are standing vigil over the Ganges awaiting the reincarnation of George Harrison or are members of The Redwalls’ search party would do well to procure the new one from these boys post-haste. The buzziest of Chicago’s many buzz bands, Smith Westerns have lived up to their much lauded promise on Dye It Blonde, their first proper release for the once-again-relevant Fat Possum Records after reissuing their HoZac debut full-length last year.
Singer Cullen Omori, brother and bassist Cameron and guitarist Max Kakacek formed Smith Westerns in 2007 and have recently added a regular drummer, Hal James.
It’s hard to believe these Northside College Prep grads are all below the legal drinking age—there’s a musical maturity here that would put most thirty-somethings to shame.
Although they wear their influences on their sleeves (glam-rock like T. Rex and Sweet, ’90s Brit-pop like Suede and Teenage Fanclub), the songs are strong by themselves, and one never gets the sense they are just cut and paste pastiche plagiarizers.
In fact, Smith Westerns are another quartet representing the Great White Hope that something new and entertaining can be crafted from that staid rock stereotype of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Anyone that says rock is dead should take this record for a spin. Sure, maybe it’s been done before, but when there is so much youthful exuberance in these grooves, it’s hard to rain on their parade.
It’s not a perfect record by any means, the tracks become a bit samey after repeated listens, and the lyrics don’t avoid clichés: “I’ll take the long way home/Is there nothing else I should know?” Cullen sings on “Fallen In Love,” “You’re not the girl I used to know” he adds on the ambitiously entitled “Imagine Pt. 3.” And, the bridge of “Weekend” gets a, “Na na na/A girl like you.”
However, the strength of the soaring melodies and richly baroque instrumentation coupled with their boisterousness more than makes up for this minor quibble. The lavish production helps too—veteran producer Chris Coady (Beach House, TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) serves as the Phil Spector on Dye It Blonde.
It’s clear the lo-fi reputation from their first singles and debut record was more a necessity of recording in guitarist Kakacek’s basement than a stylistic choice, for Dye It Blonde is all high fidelity, all the time.
Smith Westerns imagine a world where Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne had traded in his Lennon-McCartney fixation and instead focused on Harrison, the quiet Beatle who was the first to release a critical and commercial masterpiece, All Things Must Pass.
Smith Westerns made their initial mark by opening for Chicago up-and-coming duo White Mystery and have recently opened for MGMT, Florence + the Machine and WAVVES, and despite a lackluster “deer in the headlights” live performance while opening for Belle and Sebastian last fall, they have clearly justified the buzz they’ve generated with Dye It Blonde.
Dye It Blonde Tracklisting
- Still New
- Imagine Pt. 3
- All Die Young
- Fallen In Love
- End of the Night
- Only One
- Dance Away
- Dye the World