Smith Westerns Grow Up… A Little

01/19/2011 4:04 AM |

Smith Westerns

Dye It Blonde

(Fat Possum)

Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori spends the majority of his band’s sophomore album sounding a lot like John Lennon. His John is more sprightly than Christopher Owens’ though more playful than Liam Gallagher’s, and less sturdy than the actual John Lennon. The songs here feature brief, underswelling synth passages and a good deal of Nuggets-era ruckus, with Omori’s glammed-up high notes ducking in and out as he goes on about “trying to make love grow,” as on the appropriately titled “Imagine Pt. 3.” Aside from the vocals, though, they owe nearly as much to ELO as to The Fab Four, stringing together a million different unexpected parts throughout.

Omori presumably sounded like John Lennon on their first album too, but if there was a problem with the then-17-year-olds’ jangle-pop debut, it was the degree to which its scratchy, lo-fi production obscured its strengths. This we-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude worked nicely with their rabble-rousing reputation, of course (they may or may not have had a part in the Market Hotel’s demise, urinated in trashcans at Music Hall of Williamsbug, etc.), but Dye It Blonde sees them kicking off the security blanket of fuzz and exposing their unabashed enthusiasm for rock ‘n’ roll’s fundamentals—girls, guitars, girls—for all the world to see. Their age is used to their advantage this time, on songs like the lush, arms-around-each-other campout singalong “Smile,” where they sound like they’ve got nothing at all to lose… because, really, they don’t.