The Smith Street Band

More Scared of You than You Are of Me

Written by: MIN on 29/05/2017 13:44:09

With their longest gap between full-length releases yet, The Smith Street Band’s fourth LP, “More Scared of You than You Are of Me”, sees the band come swinging back, riding on the success of their highly popular and acclaimed album ”Throw Me in the River” from 2014. The band’s development on “More Scared of You…” comes as no surprise, as stylistically, it picks up where its predecessor left off. The Smithies have increasingly been building conservative song-structures that especially shone through on past songs like “Surrender” and “I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore”. Simultaneously, the band has started incorporating elements into their songs that they haven’t before, ultimately making a collection of 12 tracks that don’t necessarily connect musically in the way that “Throw Me in the River” did, but instead through a collective narrative created lyrically — courtesy of the ever-charismatic frontman Wil Wagner — which still manage to slap you dizzy.

Comparisons to the band’s previous LP have already proved efficient, so why stop now? Right from the get-go, “More Scared of You…” sets itself apart from “Throw Me in the River”; whereas that album’s brilliant one-two punch, “Something I Can Hold in My Hands” & “Surrender”, started soft and slow before breaking the waves, “More Scared of You…”’s album opener, “Forrest”, quickly blows the amp with distorted guitar and Wagner yelling ”She said: tell Jesus he’s a fucking loser!” over a shoddy production. Unrelated to that particular line, the song apparently tells the story of how he fell head-over-heels for his ex-girlfriend through various shenanigans and drunken slurs. Throughout the album’s duration, Wagner paints a picture of how the relationship turned from bad to worse, with him constantly being blamed by either himself or everyone else. At least, being blamed by everyone else is how it can sometimes feel when you’re in a situation like his, where accusations of abuse and frequent panic-attacks are more regular than your economic income.

“More Scared of You…” presents the angriest lyrics and the most intense delivery I’ve heard from Wil Wagner yet. “Suffer” is the culmination of all of Wagner’s anger; although he’s previously stated that the song is actually about the negativity, violence and incidents you might run into when constantly touring and playing shows, the song’s emphasis feels so much stronger in relation to the album’s overall lyrical theme — as if all the other problems present in Wagner’s life finally came crashing down in a culmination of being enraged, unable to escape the sadness and constantly trapped in a corner: ”Everyone is so perfect and so open-minded // Till you have a conversation where you are not the winner”. I could go on and quote the entire song, but will leave it with its brilliant chorus: ”Go forth and suffer for you art // If it’s all you look for you will always find the dark // You’re the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

As previously mentioned, The Smith Street Band has turned to more conventional song-structures in many of their songs and among these, especially the track “25” impresses. Jeff Rosenstock has once again produced the album, and thus it’s easy to think that the song is a nod to Rosenstock’s previous band Bomb the Music Industry!, who had a song with the same title. “25” is an instant winner simply because it has the kind of chorus that most bands could only hope to match someday, as Wagner yells:

I am someone in your passenger seat // I’m your punching bag // I will let you kick the shit out of me // And I’ll hold your hand // I’ll be whatever you tell me to be // And I’ll understand.

The band manages to get around most corners of their musical spectrum, with “Birthdays” featuring the album’s most evident take on the band’s signature quiet/loud-dynamics and “Death to the Lads” emerging as the obvious first single with its huge chorus and guitar solo. Furthermore, the album features more epic finales than the band has shown since 2012’s “Sunshine and Technology”. “Shine” is a result of their infusing additional elements, impressively and surprisingly featuring a choir during the song’s climactic ending, making for quite the emotional punch. “Song for You” has a similar feel, with a huge outro where you can almost see the band members on stage climbing onto monitors, as Wagner yells ”Soaked in spotlights spitting vitriol without the corresponding kind”, just before layers of guitar take over.

Unfortunately, the mammoth-sized endings tend to get a little too much. The penultimate, five-minute “Young Once” feels like a repetition and the album’s centerpiece “Run into the World” is painfully dull, with its incredibly boring and lazy chorus. Sure, the guest vocals by Laura Stevenson and Tim Rogers (and an addition of a singing-saw) pick up the song near the end, but then a huge, corny reprise kicks in and ruins what the two helped save. Nevertheless, besides those nuisances, there are few things that don’t work on “More Scared of You than You Are of Me”. There are less questionable lines here than on the occasionally awkward “Throw Me in the River” and the musicianship is more impressive throughout, courtesy of Fitzy, Cowburn & Hartney, who all play vital parts behind the band’s frontman — extra licks, interplays between guitars and a sure-fire rhythm-section that keeps things interesting work as the perfect backbone for the emotional wreck that Wil Wagner embodies. “More Scared of You…” is thus an excellent addition to an already great discography by one of modern punk-rock’s most interesting bands, and although I don’t think they’ll ever make another “No One Gets Lost Anymore” or “South East Facing Wall”, the bar the four-piece have set through their last few outings is impressive.

8

Download: Shine, 25, Suffer, Laughing (Or Pretending to Laugh)
For the fans of: Jeff Rosenstock, Laura Stevenson, Luca Brasi, Wil Wagner
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.04.2017
Pool House Records

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