The Smith Street Band

Don't Waste Your Anger

Written by: PP on 17/01/2021 16:17:10

One of the records we missed out reviewing when it originally came out in April last year was the fifth album by The Smith Street Band, whose vocalist Wil Wagner was encompassed in all sorts of drama regarding a messy relationship and its very public online aftermath. Setting such issues aside, "Don't Waste Your Anger" has since made it #1 in their home country Australia's charts, and produced an opinion split right through the middle amidst fans and critics alike.

If in the past we're used to categorizing The Smith Street Band as an emo-troubadour of sorts, backed by punk-laden instrumentation and tendency for indie-flavored melodies, then on the new album we're leaning heavily towards the latter. It's simultaneously more somber and more grandiose, with expansive songs alternating quiet ballads, plus new member Jess Locke's silky-soft female backing vocals do create a dramatic contrast to how the band used to sound like. There's a stronger emphasis on organ-like keyboard and piano backing than before, and less raw guitar supporting Wagner's vocals.

At the same time, there's a sense of familiarity in songs like "God Is Dead" and "I Still Dream About You". Crescendoing verses lead to explosive sing-along choruses, and especially in the case of the latter, melodically ringing guitars and a sense of a proper emo/punk song rather than the wallowing-in-indie style most other songs on the record possess. Here, Wagner's voice almost breaks into a scream and feels most powerful during the catchy chorus "I still dream about you, but I don't know if I want to", so for me it's no coincidence that the rest of the songs on the record that are louder, like "Profiteering" or the Jeff Rosenstock-esque "The End Of The World", are absolutely the highlights on the record. Where Wagner & co are raging, it just works.

It's not that the quieter songs and ballads are terrible. The folksy, acoustic "It's OK" is decent, and the modern Menzingers-style "Big Smoke" isn't bad either. But despite the quirky and misanthropic lyricism of "Dirty Water", it's piano-based wallowing and whiny lyrics just isn't what I want from this band as a fan. And sadly, there are too many songs where it feels like The Smith Street Band are in a hollow, dreamy indie space ("Losing It") that's missing the key ingredients that made this band so great on their to date best album, "Throw Me In The River". It's perhaps trying to be more mature musically, but much like the latest album "Hello Exile" by The Menzingers, it stumbles on overpolish in production that has largely ironed out the strong emotional charge of their past work. What's left is a decent album that feels meh in too many places.

Download: God Is Dead, I Still Dream About You, Profiteering, The End Of The World
For the fans of: The Menzingers, Laura Stevenson, The Front Bottoms
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.04.2020
Pool House Records

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