Kids these days. So far 2011 has seen a handful of startlingly mature releases from teenagers. First there was the addictive, genre-hopping Quiet State EP from 18-year-old Floridian Malcolm Lacey’s Arrange project. Then came the “Out Getting Ribs” video/mp3 from the even younger Zoo Kid, aka 16-year-old London prodigy Archy Marshall. This week sees the official release of Smith Westerns’ sophomore album Dye It Blonde from Fat Possum. Had it been written and recorded by a bunch of power-pop veterans, Dye It Blonde would be a “don’t miss” release. Coming from a group of kids who are barely out of high school bodes well for the future of these Chicago teens – this is one of the young years’ most satisfying records, and Lord knows there’s already been a large handful of exceptional 2011 releases.
I was very impressed with Smith Westerns when I first wrote about them back in the summer of 2009, but I hoped the lower than lo-fi recording style of their debut was more an effect of circumstances than their artistic choice. I said at the time: it’s a perfectly endearing novelty to hear a bunch of wildly talented children bash out some bratty exuberance on some shitty home recording devices, but many of these songs deserve a better fate. The new record doesn’t disappoint in that department at all – the production is crisp and clean, enhancing the quality of these 10 deliciously melodic glam/pop nuggets. I’m not sure about this, but I take the album title as a play on what girls do to their hair to get more attention, here referencing the glossy hi-fi production values the band have employed to brilliant effect.
The band, who sound like a hyperactive T. Rex with a clear mid-period Beatles fixation (and personally I’m not hearing The Replacements at all, despite what a few other reviewers are saying), deliver all new material on Dye It Blonde. The grand, sweeping arrangements, especially on “Weekend”, “All Die Young”, and “Smile” swell into some pretty uplifting, dare-you-to-not-sing-along territory, while the fingerprints of notorious 90’s Brit-pop provocateurs Oasis are all over “Only One” and “Dye the World”, in a good way. In fact lead singer Cullen Omori has said that that era was a huge influence on the band during recording. It all adds up to a disarmingly good album, made all the more impressive considering this is likely just the tip of the iceberg for these guys. If this is any indication, I guess the kids really are alright.
MP3 :: Weekend
(from Dye It Blonde. Buy here)