The Smith Street Band

Throw Me In The River

Written by: TL on 14/11/2014 17:30:29

With two LP's and two EP's already behind them in their brief four year history, you can't say that Australia's The Smith Street Band haven't already made some noise, yet their qualities have been a bit of an underground secret for a while, at least until their popularity started growing exponentially over the last year or so, to the point where everyone should at least know the "Don't Fuck With Our Dreams" track from their 2013 EP of the same name. The recently released "Throw Me In The River" is the band's third full length then, which sees a steady development of their style while they retain enough of their personality to keep solidly in stride.

If you're only getting into the band now however, "Throw Me In The River" will showcase as good as any of their records, that the quartet from Melbourne has a predominantly lyrical style, where the classic, two-guitar rock group setup is used mainly in a supportive, almost orchestral fashion to back up the singing storytelling of guitarist and vocalist Wil Wagner. Wagner has an affected, rowdy singing style which is close enough to your everyday, broken-voiced punk rock singer to get the group lumped in with that whole scene, yet his Aussie tone and dialect are charateristic enough that, when you combine them with his lyrics, the result has proven more than enough to earn the band a growing, dedicated following.

The reason is that Wagner's lyrics find him struggling with the highs and lows of life in a way that anyone whose life isn't quite progressing smoothly according to some grand plan can relate to. The album certainly has mood swings, just look at the titles ranging from "I Don't Wanna Die Anymore", over "Throw Me In The River" and back up to "I Love Life", yet regardless of the mood however, Wagner provides refrains to relate and sing along to with improving consistency on this new album. The first two arrive right of the bat with "Something I Can Hold In My Hand" and "Surrender", the two opening songs which seque seamlessly and showcase the band's subtle knack for staying in the background and simply setting the stage until time comes to provide muscle below Wagner when he raises his voice and belts his emotive hooks.

Much is on Wagner then, for while there's an elated guitar riff to blow "Surrey Drive" open and some chiming glockenspiel notes in the verse of "Calgary Girls" that make a rare reference to the warm sound of a certain different "-Street Band", it's not like The Smith Street guys to thrive on signature riffs or characteristic instrumental soundscapes. Their sound in itself is quite plain and still leaves room for development, but they obviously would not have gotten so far if the platform they build for Wagner didn't make for some thoroughly engaging songs. You feel comforted by the group when Wagner sings "You don't have to surrender", and you're ready to rally behind him when he yells ""Why don't you fuck off, and stop bringing hate into our lives?" in "Surrey Drive". You even relate to him when he staggers between insisting that "Leaving isn't what I came here for" in "I Don't Wanna Die Anymore" and bitterly asks "Throw me in the fucking river!" in the title track.

These, the biggest of the record's outbursts, are merely entry points into a generously detailed lyrical experience, which is perhaps best in more easily overlooked songs like "Calgary Girls", which is up close and grimey in the lines about having sex with someone for the first time and aching to make it feel intimate, or in "The Arrogance Of The Drunk Pedestrian", where Wagner narrates: "Taxi driver looks down my girlfriend's top - 'Ask politely if he could be a gentleman - 'Pulls his aviators down so he doesn't have to stop". Songs like these may not even have the hooks to counterbalance the vagueness of The Smith Street Band's instrumental fingerprint, but they sure have the gravity, and if anything that seems to be the essense for Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band. In a music scene occupied with style, they're occupied with writing songs about what they know - about not having things figured out but trying to get there - and about getting on the road and playing their songs to people that are just like them. And that, in its own way, makes them every bit as worthwhile as the most fascinating new rock sound you might hear this year.

8

Download: Surrender, Something I Can Hold In My Hands, Throw Me In The River
For The Fans Of: The Front Bottoms, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Frank Turner, Frightened Rabbit
Listen: facebook.com/thesmithstreetband

Release date 31.10.2014
Poison City Records

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