There’s something oddly humbling and comforting about listening to the Smith Street Band, it’s like they’re that hometown band you watched put on shows in garages and living rooms growing up. It just feels like you know them—their lyrics are very real and they as people are very much real, which overall creates this very humbling, raw effect to their music. I first became obsessed with Smith Street band after falling in love with their EP Don’t Fuck with Our Dreams. The five songs on that EP just bleed and synchronize into each other so well that I find myself coming back to that EP as a musical landmark for the Smith Street Band. I realize it’s unfair to hold a band to standards from a seemingly raw and angry five year old EP, but I can’t help but feel like just the smallest inkling is missing from More Scared of You Than You Are of Me.
Lets take the opener “Forrest”—it’s a decent enough song, but it doesn’t hit as hard as the rest of the record. Even though I find myself wanting more, I will say the song’s content sets the stage for the entire record. The chorus in “Death to the Lads” was definitely made for a live audience as it’s the strongest part of the song. However, the rest of the song feels muddled with too many words and there’s not enough clarity to the meaning behind them. “Shine” and “Suffer” at first listen appear a tad lackluster, but then eventually grow on you like an ugly sweater that eventually becomes your favorite one to wear.
And here is where I end what small criticisms I have of this record because despite the smallest shortcomings, Wil Wagner knows how to write a damn good song. “Birthdays” not only has catchy melodies, but an incredibly good build-up that leaves you wanting more by the end of the song. You can sense the highs and lows of emotions throughout this song and by the end Wil Wagner’s just like “Hi, I’m Wil. This is me. Nice to meet you.” In classic Smith Street style “Song for You” leaves us wondering who Wagner’s talking about and more importantly makes us wonder about our own relationships.
“I just wanted you to let me love you / I just wanted you to let me”
“Passiona” is musically different and adventurous; it’s no surprise the album's namesake comes from this song. This song feels like a giant “fuck you, this is us whether you like it or not”—Wagner has managed to gather his scattered and scared thoughts into a cohesive song about shortcomings. (Bonus points if you know “Passiona” is also an Australian passionfruit-flavored soft drink, which feels completely appropriate for this song.) Laura Stevenson and Tim Rogers are highlighted on “Run into the World” and despite the new voices, the song remains in classic Smith Street style with an explosive ending. Plus Stevenson’s voice compliments Wagner’s so well that you almost want them to form a supergroup together. “It Kills Me to Have to Be Alive” might be my favorite track on the record; aside from the chorus the song is done in a poetic, almost spoken-word style fashion over a few repeating chords.
“I do not feel that I am loved / But I do not reach out enough. / But I’m reaching out / And I’ll let this all fall around me”
“Young Once” has an interestingly quiet opening and then the chorus kicks in and that’s it; I’m in love with the song. Aside from the very good woah-oh placement (which I’m a total sucker for), the song’s meaning hits hard on the fear we have as we get older—all the what-ifs, the wondering, the worries. Very real feelings that strike a chord not many musicians can. I love the opening of the song “Laughing (Or Pretending to Laugh)” with Wagner’s muffled, nervous lyrics. I love that he doesn’t become fully clear until the middle of the song as if we’re overhearing him spilling his guts on someone’s voicemail.
“And just because I've got a lot to learn / Does not mean that I am inherently a piece of shit / Just because I don’t think I know everything / Doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything”
There’s no other band out there like the Smith Street Band, and maybe I’m still holding their first EP too close to my heart, but there’s no doubt this record more than competes for my love.
8.2 / 10
Posted July 15, 2017, 1:14 p.m.
The Smith Street Band have announced a full US tour in addition to their upcoming performance at Riot Fest in Chicago. The band will tour with The Flatliners and Astronautalis.
Posted Feb. 18, 2017, 7:04 p.m.
The Smith Street Band will return with a new album, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, out on April 7 via SideOneDummy. The new record is based ...
Posted Dec. 14, 2014, 2:42 p.m.
Andrew Jackson Jihad, fresh off the release of Christmas Island, have announced a headlining US tour. They will be joined on all dates by The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock ...
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