The new wave of “it” bands remember good songs and have decided to write some. Like Brits Yuck and New Yorker Luke Rathborne, the Chicagoans in Smith Westerns have put their heads together to make solid guitar rock tunes on “Dye It Blonde.” Nothing new under the sun, for real.
But the reason that Smith Westerns were on my list of “No way am I going to get into their SXSW sets” is because their guitar rock is the kind you wish existed already. Out of the three aforementioned bands, it’s easily the most accessible. The vocals float above the guitar work in volumes ranging from “coo” (“Weekend”) to “croon.” The guitar is often of that 1950s-style, which is alternately dreamy and forward without being invasive. The airy synths give off a vintage vibe, which is barely possible (they didn’t really have synths in the ‘50s?), but they do.
This band packages all of the great things about 70 years of pop/rock into one set. Bold statement? Yes. They back it up. I could spend several hundred words describing all the songs in detail, but I won’t. Just know that they are each fantastic and worthy of the words.
The first listen of “Dye It Blonde” made me feel as if I’d heard the disc a dozen times already and loved every spin. This is familiar in all the right ways and none of the wrong ones; you can play “spot the influence,” but they add up to more than the sum of their parts.
You’ll be humming their guitar melodies and vocal melodies. You’ll be queuing it up for your next make-out session. You’ll be putting “Weekend” in the first spot on your summer mixtape. Yes. Get this album. —Stephen Carradini