The Smith Westerns are determined to dry hump the innocent jangle of Darlene Love into submission, ready to shoot off their own pre-natal romantics like they’ll die before 20. Tact or coolness never registers. Beyond howling “BEE MY GIRLLL” to the first girl they see, the night doesn’t hold much of a plan. Sniff glue, fuck till morning, make it to bed before your parents smell tonsils soaked in schnapps, repeat. Who says that isn’t love?
What makes the Smith Westerns’ plea for a touch so damn infections has a lot to do with the package: Marc Bolan’s smut infused snarl? Check. Percussion ripped from Gary Glitter? Check. Production techniques on par with The Kingsman circa 1964? Check. Cram in a chorus like “I can tell by the stars in your eyes that you’re a girl…in…looovee,” and you have yourself a glam garage shitstorm of adolescent sex drive proportions (that’s a large shit storm) potent enough to shove an arrow right through your sister’s heart.
So yes, The Smith Westerns are a rambling, rag-tag group of Chicago teenagers ready to take on the world. Even during what I have dubbed the “summer of fuzz” these guys stand out. Even under the haze of dust encrusted fenders, every track off their self titled debut album personifies unmitigated pop of the highest degree.
It’s interesting to witness a band like the Smith Westerns emerge in 2009, forever linked with the year lo-fi grew up. What was once a necessary evil of the DIY philosophy (bedroom sessions = teeth gnashing guitar distortion, hemorrhaging speaker cracks, watery vocals) has now mutated into a fully formed aesthetic complete with built in influences, free loaders and hypocrites.
This entire philosophy can, at its best, produce some of the most life affirming, earnestly fun rock music heard yet in the aughts (Wavves, Girls, Family Portrait, Real Estate, Trailer Trash Tracys among others). At its worst, the genre can produce bands who use distortion as a crutch, gaining recognition simply through the awareness that critics soak up fuzz like its a fucking drug (Crocodiles).
Suffice to say, The Smith Westerns do it right. What their live show will bring is another question. Can their epic choruses and heartbreaking harmonies emerge through the wall of noise? I hope so. What’s great is that I can’t imagine these guys playing a more appropriate venue than Gooski’s, Pittsburgh’s permanent neighborhood bar if there ever was one. As the summer closes it down over the next few weeks, make sure you treat yourself to one more night of undulating passion, The Smith Westerns will hold your hand through the entire thing.