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If you're going to make a record as teenage, rambunctious, and wild as the Smith Westerns' debut album, being actual teenagers can only help. The Chicago quartet were all in their teens when their self-titled record came out on HoZac (though, when it was reissued the next year by Fat Possum, one or more of them may have been in their twenties and seriously over-the-hill), and the record is exactly what you'd want from a bunch of Nuggets-era punk rock and T. Rex loving youngsters. Raw, energetic, and full of snotty tunes that have huge singalong hooks, the record is a 30-minute blast of good-time rock & roll that sounds like it was recorded in a parent's basement (or, more specifically, the inside of a washing machine in said basement). While the sound is pleasingly murky and overloaded, bumping up the fidelity wouldn't have hurt the songs a bit. Unlike quite a few of their contemporaries who use noise to hide the fact that they aren't writing very good songs, Smith Westerns have tunes like "Dreams" or "The Glam Goddess" that would be just as good if they were produced by George Martin at Abbey Road. Or maybe Tony Visconti since the band's love for Marc Bolan and T. Rex circa Electric Warrior is made bleedingly obvious on "Girl in Love" and "Be My Girl." Obvious, yes, but also thrillingly executed in a completely ramshackle and breathless fashion. Until you heard it, you might have thought a lo-fi update on the T. Rex sound might have been misguided. The group's take on garage rock is also refreshingly energetic and fun, adding power-pop song structures to the snarling attitude and coming up with a frenetic and fun hybrid. A song like "My Heart" sums up the past 40 years of punk rock in one three-minute blast of energy like few bands have ever been able to do. The Exploding Hearts are one of the few that spring to mind and that's exceedingly fine company for Smith Westerns to be in. Smith Westerns is a great debut record, one of the best punk (in the true sense of the word) records of 2009 (and 2010), and proof that not all lo-fi bands have something to hide.
|Label:||Fat Possum Records|