There’s a surprising new trend in the world of music: indie bands with second albums that sound much cleaner than their debut. Enough bands have bucked the sophomore slump to set a precedent: Wavves, Best Coast, and now the Smith Westerns have jumped on the bandwagon with Dye it Blonde, the follow up to their 2009 self-titled.
Perhaps it’s the bands finding their groove, or possibly, the credit goes to the labels that on the second go-around, shell out enough cash to hire better producers. Or maybe it's just the result of growing up; if that’s the case, the Smith Westerns are a band with a lot of potential.
Dye it Blonde seems caught between eras in music, a compliment few bands garner. At times, the album feels like a lost-then-found relic of the ‘60s, when labels struggled to capitalize on that Beatle money. "Imagine Pt. 3" (see even the title has a link to my comparison) sounds so English and poppy that I had to double check where the band hails from (Chicago, if you wondered). The song is full of bright guitars contrasting melodramatic lyrics such as "the look in your eyes makes me wanna die." The song ends in a hail of guitars and strings, creating an almost orchestral effect.
Pouring through Dye it Blonde, I can't get the idea out of my head that, “grooves” and labels aside, the band may actually just be very, very good. For kids just barely peering over their twenties, they have a ton of skill and maturity with their work. Some songs like "Still New" come off like Roy Orbison singing a Guns N’ Roses outtake on the set of a David Lynch movie. "All Die Young" is the most moody and spacey track, but even then still holds on to being very catchy and organized. It's all top notch really; the band doesn't seem like they are holding anything back, but at the same time it seems like they can effortlessly churn out these catchy, well-formed songs.
Dye it Blonde is shockingly better than I imagined it to be. The first exposure I had to the band was the track "Be My Girl", which I considered to be 3 minutes and 21 seconds of one extraordinary hook, and the rest little more than a semi-decent version of the Strokes. Hearing an entire album from the Smith Westerns proves that they are actually consistently making good music. The songs do all sound a bit similar, but when catchy pop-rock is the style, that isn't a bad thing. If you’re even a bit curious of the band, definitely pick up Dye it Blonde; who knows, one day it may get you the same bragging rights as owning the White Album.
2. Still New
3. Imagine Pt. 3
4. All Die Young
5. Fallen in Love
6. End of the Night
7. Only One
9. Dance Away
10. Dye the World