Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dye It Blonde - Smith Westerns

Dye It Blonde
Smith Westerns
Fat Possum Records FP 1235

The inner sleeve and record label of this album are covered with smiley faces, which is appropriate since this is the happiest record I've heard this year.  When I started hearing cuts from “Dye It Blonde” on college radio earlier this year, they really jumped out at me with their sunshine pop sound.  I could hear a strong retro pop influence blended with a big old fashioned glam rock/Spectorish wall of sound.  I loved it and bought this album which lived up to all my expectations.  I wish I could say the same for their live act, but when I saw them open for the Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Bowl, I was a bit disappointed and I don’t think it was just me, because almost no one around me paid any attention to them, they just kept babbling to each other as if they weren’t even playing.  I think the Bowl was not a good venue for them, they seemed small and the sound was all murky.  It must be a challenge to reproduce that grandiose sound on stage.  Anyway they are still pretty young and I imagine the live act will improve with experience.  Perhaps the lyrics will improve too because these are pretty slight, mostly silly love songs.  The music is strong enough that I don’t mind too much, but hopefully as these guys mature they will find something interesting to say.  I love the shimmering power pop of “Weekend” and “End of The Night,” alternative rock does not get any more joyous than this.  I feel instantly uplifted whenever I hear these songs.  If you don’t listen to the words “Still New” sounds like an outtake from John Lennon’s “Mind Games” album, it even fades out with a Beatlesque segment of the song playing backwards.  I also hear Lennon in “Imagine Pt. 3" which I presume is named in tribute to him as well as in the reverb heavy  “All Die Young” which also reminds me a little of Badfinger in its guitar sound.  Side one ends with “Fallen In Love” which reminds me of mid-1970s Paul McCartney.  I dig the glossy folk-rock sound of “Only One” which sounds like the Wondermints covering the Byrds.  My favorite song is “Smile.”  It is a soaring, ecstatic song that sounds like the Polyphonic Spree jamming with ELO and Oasis, the music is so big and powerful that Phil Spector is probably sitting in his cell planning a plagiarism suit.  “Dance Away” is the hardest rocking song on the album.  It has a strong beat, bordering on disco at one point, but still features the rich musical sound of the rest of the album.  It sounds a bit like the High Llamas doing Bowie's "Modern Love."  The album closes with “Dye The World Blonde” which has the cleverest lyrics of all the songs on the album and a nice majestic 1970s power pop feel that brings to mind Todd Rundgren, Big Star or Badfinger.  I have a feeling if I checked out these guys' record collection, I'd see a lot of my favorite old records.  Maybe they aren't the most original band around, but their music makes me so happy that I don't care.  I love the band's enthusiasm and passion and I hope they can hang on to that as they get older.  I can't wait to hear where they are going to go in the future.  Recommended for fans of Best Coast.


  1. I think you just appreciate the back cover... :)

    Just kidding. Have you ever heard the band '70s/'80s power-pop band Shoes (not to be confused with THE Shoes, apparently, a very different-sounding band)? I checked out this Smith Westerns album after reading your writeup, and it reminded me a lot of them. If you haven't heard them, check out their album "Present Tense" (it's on Spotify), and I think you'll see what I mean. Good catchy stuff, but in both cases I wish the vocals were just a bit stronger, a little less breathy. But I'll still give it a closer listen...

  2. Good call. They do sound like Shoes. These guys definitely aren't the most original band around but at least they have good taste, well aside from the back cover I suppose, ha-ha. I can never get enough power pop.