Smith Westerns - s/t (2010, Fat Possum) - A brief evaluation
We're all painfully aware that "there's nothing new under the sun." Food is a prime example of this adage, though while the list of ingredients our bodies have the opportunity to imbibe is somewhat finite, you can still have a hell of a lot of fun with a mixing bowl and a whisk. Same goes for rock and roll. So long as the right cooks are stirring the pot, the results can be tasty, albeit not necessarily original, which leads me into introducing Chicago's Smith Westerns. Adopting a brand of fidelity that consistently fluctuates between "lo" and "mid," this Windy City four-piece choose to pitch their tent on a bedrock of gauzy, garage punk rambunctiousness, with a sonic aptitude that's squarely in league with such contemporaries as Japandroids and Wavves. That being established, their curriculum thankfully dates back further than the last eighteen months, with heavy doses of Bowie, Swell Maps, and T-Rex likely giving their turntable a vigorous workout.
On their debut, the Westerns play a strikingly similar card to Portland, OR's sadly departed Exploding Hearts, a top-notch punk-pop outfit who were as unremittingly raw and distortion endowed as these newcomers. And like the Exploding Hearts, S/W has a penchant for precious sentiments, but they buttress such lyrical concerns with the kind of sleazy swagger evidenced on "Girl in Love." Elsewhere, "We Stay Out" suffers and/or benefits from some vividly murky and warbled effects, but this crew are at their most endearing when they stick to retro-fitted power pop, filtered through a buoyant psyche prism as on "Dreams" and "Be My Girl." Vocal "treatments" go a long way in defining their shtick as well, but I have to wonder what I'd make of the Westerns if they nixed that rather nagging facet altogether. Smith Westerns exudes it's fair share of formative foibles, but then again it is a debut - one that hovers slightly above average. You can be the judge by heading over to Fat Possum Records, or your digitalretailer of choice, not to mention taste-testing a sample.