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Album Review: Smith Westerns - 'Dye It Blonde'

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Album Review: Smith Westerns – ‘Dye It Blonde’

Never underestimate the power of a good hook. It seems odd that in 2011, hardly any blog-friendly bands seem willing (read: able) to pick up a guitar without constructing a song (read: opus) that is centred around, variously: a long-lost Biblical passage, the key to the Matrix, maths or a 12th-century tree. I’d like to pose the question: what the fuck has happened to three chords and a class-A chorus? Smith Westerns’ second album goes some way to address this.

Even though it bears the hallmarks of classic [a]Oasis[/a], [a]Suede[/a], [a]T-Rex[/a] and solo [a]John Lennon[/a] and George Harrison, it is not a backwards-looking album. It exists in the here and now, and it should really be celebrated because it’s been a long, long while since any band has so deftly penned a collection of songs which make you yearn to play along, hum along and – ultimately – sing along. Teaming them up with producer Chris Coady, who helmed [a]Beach House[/a]’s [b]‘Teen Dream’[/b], is the key to the record’s zing.

His work on [b]‘Dye It Blonde’[/b] is exactly as you’d hope it would be – taking Smith Westerns’ ragged fuzz, spit-shining it, pushing Cullen Omori’s faint vocals right up and dropping heavy, heavy dream-synths all over the place. All that was left for the band to do – or mainly guitarist Max Kakacek – was to come up with the best, most anthemic guitar sounds possible. Well, wouldn’t you?

Obviously, Kakacek looked directly to: the beginning of [b]‘Metal Guru’[/b], [b]‘Champagne Supernova’[/b], [b]‘Another Girl, Another Planet’[/b], [b]‘Wah Wah’[/b] and [b]‘Everything Flows’[/b]. No need for anything else. Every song here features at least three amazing guitar bursts – euphoric little solos that drive the whole thing. The best moments are the [b]‘Mind Games’[/b]-aping [b]‘All Die Young’[/b], the swoonsome [b]‘Still New’[/b], and [b]‘Only One’[/b], which sounds like a lost Gallagher B-side. Smith Westerns might not play barre chords, but they’re properly good songwriters – smart kids with mean tunes, sharp minds and great record collections.

Matt Wilkinson

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Check out Smith Westerns playing live at SXSW