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Dye The World

Smith Westerns on April 27, 2011 20:28

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    Smith Westerns have cleaned up nicely. Just over a year ago, the Chicago foursome were of the strictly "lo-fi" persuasion, stirring up hot, filthy garage-rock candy out of Marc Bolan and Beatles signifiers. It was youthful music in feeling and sound-- their noisy full-length debut was recorded while they were still in high school-- but the remarkable hooks buried therein were clear enough to land them on the increasingly stacked Fat Possum roster. And suddenly, they had a studio budget the likes of which they definitely hadn't enjoyed before. Though the leap is audibly huge, Dye It Blonde's many successes aren't wholly the result of its gilded production values and ambition. This band was able to furnish first-class melodies from the beginning. Now they've grown along with their resources.

    You can hear the progress right away in "Imagine, Pt. 3", a song originally released as part of a split 7" in April 2010. Sped up here just a touch, it's also been re-outfitted with a far creamier set of synths and guitars. The way the latter seem to clasp hands during the coda is particularly breathtaking, frontman Cullen Omori and guitarist Max Kakacek letting their individual lines mate rather than duel. While the melodic foundation was already sturdy throughout, here, what once sounded ragged in stretches is now plush-upholstered from start to finish. Every single piece of Dye It Blonde is similarly decadent, whether it's the sweet whine of semi-titular closer "Dye the World" or the twilight jangle of "End of the Night".

    In an interview not long after the album's completion, Omori noted that this otherwise new set of songs was influenced by 90s Britpop luminaries like Oasis, Teenage Fanclub, and Suede. All are present sonically and spiritually, be it in brash tones, melodic IQ or the sheer scope of these recordings. Where a Smith Westerns hook may have once sounded like another fuzzy member of the Nuggets family/genus, it now unfolds like crane-shot, mainstage festival fare. "Still New" for example floats some phasered guitar interplay before Kakacek rips a hole across the chest of the song with a woozy line so big it essentially serves as a chorus. Like "Weekend", whose central, hair-flipping lick also hugs all its parts together perfectly, the song just sounds so drunk-- drunk on love, drunk on heavy petting, drunk on drink, or maybe just drunk on a some combination of the above. In song, it all depends on the lean of Omori's voice and the whip of his chord changes, the curves of his brother Cameron's bass lines.

    That moony/beery-eyed feel bleeds through every corridor of this album and in turn forms a crystalline expression of what moves this band. Their use of the studio in augmenting that never goes overboard, though: this music still retains the innately psychedelic, lamplit, tongue-kissed sense of atmosphere that set it apart. There's perhaps no better instance of all that than "All Die Young", the album's centerpiece. It's a ballad turned hymn whose grand, tumbling scale and "Oh Yoko"-indebted outro celebration are peaks on an album rich in them. In its closing moments, Omori sings what sounds like, "Love is lovely when you are young." They were convincing before, but now they seem like experts.

    — David Bevan, January 18, 2011 [Pitchfork | Best New Music | 8.4]

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