Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 3rd 2020
From Smith Street to the world
I was late to the party when it came to The Smith Street Band. They've been around for a decade and yet I didn't know a thing about them until I heard their song 'Passiona' in 2017. I then went back and listened to some of their earlier stuff (not a great deal, I am ashamed to admit). At the start of this year, I heard a new album was coming out, so I decided to grab it. But with the whole pandemic thing reducing my disposable income, I couldn't afford it. However, I did come into some cash just recently, and so, a couple of weeks after its release, I finally got hold of their new one: Don't Waste Your Anger by The Smith Street Band (2020)
The Smith Street Band harken back to that classic Australian rock sound of the 1980s. There is something about the rock music from Australia that sets it apart, something indefinable, and yet The Smith Street Band has it. This album grabbed me from the get-go. I will say there is one thing that I really liked – the lyrics were really strong. As a writer, I am a sucker for well-written lyrics, and this album had them in spades.
I don't know much about the band's earlier music and have only heard one album in full before this one, so I am coming to this from a new listener sort of a place. Then again, I am not like most music critics, I don't think; for start, I'll only review things I like. And this, I like. A lot.
Let's get to the album!
'God Is Dead' Starting with an organ and the sad lyrics, there is a Gang Of Youths vibe about the start of this track, and then it builds and it builds, like some sort of release of pent-up emotion. The lyrics tell a tale of looking back on dark times and having come through them. "And nobody cares about you or your pain/ That becomes freedom if you look at it that way…" Quite the stunning opener.
'Big Smoke' Track 1 bleeds straight into this song. It is more upbeat in tempo and delivery, and yet the lyrics are more depressing. This one tells of missing someone. And the last line indicates the singer was the one who left them, and now regrets it. Yeah, I can relate to this one all too well. This is a great track as well.
'I Still Dream About You' Again, the break between songs is non-existent. And this song has two meanings. The tale of a lost love is also a tale about still craving something given up (in this case cigarettes, apparently). It is a strange lyrical conceit, and yet it works so well. And the guitars and drums are great. I want to hear this song live, I reckon.
'Dirty Water' Things slow down again for this track. This is a song of losing someone, I am sure of it. "I've fallen out of love with people…" goes the chorus, but that is often how a break-up makes some-one feel. And what an amazing turn of phrase that is. Simple, and yet it says so much. The keyboards really make this song musically as well.
'The End Of The World' Things amp up a bit for this track, which is another one with slightly depressing lyrics. This is the delivery of the words that I remember from my first listenings to TSSB. And yet the chorus – "Nothing gets better so enjoy what you have" – indicates it is a song of being happy with the way things are and stop trying to reach beyond. The pounding beat of the drums drives this song along nicely. I think this might be my favourite track on the album.
'Losing It' Again, the comparison to Gang Of Youths stands out for me, although the addition of a female voice in the harmonies softens this one somewhat. Musically and vocally, this is a definite stand-out track. Lyrically, it is a little sad: the singer knows he is making a mess of things and cannot understand why his partner is giving him a second chance, but is happy she does. Great track.
'Profiteering' And that track bleeds into this song with its opening lyrics which explains to me a phrase I've been seeing online a bit lately (though won't write here – language warning!). The song is about how bad the world is, but as it goes on, notes of hopefulness are injected into the words until it does come out like something might be good after all.
'It's OK' Here's a song that I can relate to all too well, considering my marriage came to a definite end only 2 years ago. This is a break-up song, but one where they are trying to be positive about it. "It's okay if you don't love me anymore…" It's tough, but this song speaks to a universal truth and is going to be one of those timeless tracks that I have been hearing more and more from when it comes to Australian musos. Voice and acoustic guitar are the dominant instruments, only adding to its timelessness. Stunning song.
'Heaven Eleven' This starts off with a different sound to the other tracks before crashing into the rock that this band just does so well. Still, for that, it is another good track. A song of desperate loneliness and missing someone. This song has more than a hint of the Hummingbirds about them, which is definitely not a bad thing at all. Kudos, gang.
'Don't Waste Your Anger' And we finish with the title track. Not sure what this song is about, if I'm being honest, but I still like the music that is delivered and the chorus that starts, "I'm my best when I'm forgiving…" has crowd singalong written all over it. "Don't waste your anger on me…" There is no reason to be angry with this album. None at all.
This is going to sound weird because the music is so different, but this album has many similarities with Fiona Apple's Fetch The Bolt Cutters. No, hear me out. There is not a bad track on either one. The lyrics are more than just the words to songs, they are poetry that has been set to music. And they speak in timeless ways of things that are universal. Intelligent lyrics twice in a row. I am suitably happy with that course of events.
I am going to be the first to admit that the lead singer's voice might not be to everyone's taste. But, to me, it sounds honest and raw, and is far better than my own warbling. There are no bum notes, and the delivery is everything here. It's like he feels exactly what he is singing. But the musicianship – all the instrument-playing – is really strong. They are a tight unit. There is so much to love about the Smith Street Band, and this is yet another Australian act that deserves overseas recognition. There are very few artists in the world delivering stuff like this.
Oh well, I shall do what I can, and to that end, I say, Buy this album. Thoroughly recommended.