Let’s start this review by quoting another, of sorts.
“Your music sounds like ten pissed dudes yelling at each other”
A concise, unflinching opinion from a chap posting on The Smith Street Band’s Facebook page. Whether Mr Chafingsac is actually a fan of the Aussie quartet is yet to become clear, as is the authenticity of his otherwise unfortunate surname, but it is more importantly, not an assessment that particularly offends Will Wagner and Co.
Wagner’s response? “There’s actually only four of us”.
In a way, our friend Mr Chafingsac (can’t be real, can it?) isn’t too far off the mark, but in a good way. Fans of the band, that are now four full lengths and a few EPs deep into their career, will be familiar with the band being frontman Wagner’s cathartic venting vehicle. Having never been shy about admitting to struggling with his mental health, some of best Smith Street Band songs are ferocious, 1000 words a minute blasts that act as an obvious release. There’s a brash, uncompromising honesty in it all that means hundreds of fans, drunk and sober, scream those words right back at them. It could easily be one hundred pissed dudes yelling at each other in a live setting.
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In truth, though, there’s much more the ‘More Scared of You…’ than a load of yelling over raucous, folky punk. There’s a good amount of that, but The Smithies have certainly progressed since 2014’s excellent ‘Throw Me In The River’. With none other than Jeff Rosenstock manning production duties at a Californian beach house, it’s clear the band took more care in the fine details this time around.
It’s worth noting that ‘More Scared of You Than You Are of Me’ documents the romantic journey of a relationship from start to finish in the bittersweet style we’ve now come to expect from these guys. From nervous beginnings of untidy bedrooms and over eagerness on second single ‘Birthdays’, to the frustrations of having to spend time with people you dislike on the sure-to-be-massive-live venting of ‘Suffer’, The Smith Street Band nail real life with zero sugar coating.
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The lead single, ‘Death To The Lads’ gives us everything we want from the band. Relatable rants, lyrics to be screamed at the top of your lungs and some good ol’ swearing, not to mention a frankly awesome guitar solo from Lee Hartney that The Darkness would have been proud of. It’s the subtle, delicate moments that really emphasis the strides that quartet have made on this release, though.
The self-deprecating one-two of ‘Passiona’ and ‘Run Into The World’ don’t stay subtle and quiet for too long, but both provide changes of pace that showcase a stylistic range that goes beyond the aforementioned yelling-drunk analogy with ‘Passiona’ delivering fleeting moments of beautiful, finger-picked guitar work. The later of the two features one of the album’s highlights; the almost desperate, haunted refrains of “If nothing gets better, neither will I” and a guest vocal from the fantastic Laura Stevenson are enough to send shivers down the neck.
It’s lines like that, that sum up what The Smith Street Band are unrivalled at conveying. Mental struggles are at the forefront, as is the fact that it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to not be okay – with that unwavering honesty and the tunes to match, they’re sure to hit home with thousands on this record, and they bloody well deserve it.
‘More Scared of You Than You Are of Me’ is released on April 7th via Specialist Subject Records.