Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde


For a couple guys a year or so removed from high school, things sure have moved fast.  Hot off the heels of their much buzzed-about, low-fi 2009 release, this Chicago-based foursome signed with touted label Fat Possum, which in turn provided an upgrade in the production values for their latest release, Dye It Blonde.  The band’s profile has also been raised leading to some fine reviews and a tour slot this spring opening for Wilco.  Despite the hype, however, this album fails to coalesce into anything worth raving about and instead feels a bit underwhelming. 

There are some positives: the band’s sound is undeniably infectious and their power pop hooks and melodies prove winsome and endearing.  Beatles references pop up now and then, especially on the Lennon-namesake “Imagine, Pt. 3”, and the soaring follow-up “All Die Young”.  Traces of golden 60’s Nuggets-style harmonies also appear, notably on sunny rave-up “End of the Night”, and on the psychedelic sway of “Smile”.  These are great starting points for a rock band on the rise and Smith Westerns do an admirable job in paying these styles homage.  The problem is their music comes along at a time when too many other current bands, namely MGMT and The Love Language, are carrying the same banner and carrying it stronger.  It seems like every few years, a certain sound catches on and takes flight.  A few bands usher it in and others follow, pushed forward by eager labels and promoters.  This can be a good thing in that many new and worthy bands gain a following and fan base to guide them along the way. 

On the flip side, though, the product can become saturated with like-minded sounds and ideas.  There can be too many bands trying the same thing, causing listeners to tune out the subtle differences contained in each release and effort.  For the bands that do catch the buzz, there is often the problem of too much too soon.  I’m afraid this could be the case for Smith Westerns.  This is a band with potential and they deserve the opportunity to develop and grow into their sound and style.  However, with the raves coming in hot and heavy for Dye It Blonde, the peak may have crested and the accolades may never be as strong as they currently are.  Here’s hoping the opposite comes true, and the youngsters are given the chance to do even bigger and better things. 

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