REVIEW: Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

Today marks the release of Chicago four-piece Smith Western’s sophomore album, “Dye It Blonde” via Fat Possum. All aged between 18-20, the group’s youthful, teenage charm is probably the strongest quality that shines across all of the album’s 10 tracks. It’s an album full of teenage anthems, which although attributed to the lo-fi scene, has a cleaner sound that brings forth more similarities to their current tour-partners, Girls.

It would be pretty simple to label them as a more up-tempo Girls, yet this album, in my opinion, has a lot more to offer than that of the San Francisco natives. Starting with “Weekend”‘s glittery intro, which to me sounds like an ice cream van, and it’s “Na Na Na Na, a girl like you,” chorus, Smith Westerns scream a portrayal of youth, naivety and desire. With Beatles-esque “oooooooooooohs” it’s hard not to be drawn into this catchy collection of instant guitar pop hits.

The group were apparently inspired by British acts like T-Rex and you can certainly pick up on this, especially in tracks like “Fallen In Love”, the intro of which reminds me a lot of Franz Ferdinand and their song “Walk Away”. In fact, “Dye It Blonde” is, for me, incredibly reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand’s second album, “You Could Have It So Much Better…” but with a tinge of country rock. Obviously it’s not a strong correlation as there are massive contrasts of style, yet the sense of bigger, bolder things that the music accentuates shows that these albums have common ground.

My personal favourite is the album’s fourth track “All Die Young”. A true anthem that just seems to transcend the rest. It has this grandiose essence without even trying and if you cannot connect to a younger, wilder self when you hear this, I don’t know what is wrong with you. It obviously deals with teenage ideals of “live fast, die young” but they do so almost, dare I say it, adorably? A serious and slow-build is counteracted by a jump-around, januty sing-a-long segment that you will be helpless not to enjoy.

The album ends with the slow and chilled-out conclusion song, “Dye The World”, which is undoubtedly brilliant. It sounds like an epitaph to teenage years and a grand fuck you to growing-up and while Smith Westerns songs may seem riddled with teenage cliches, that doesn’t make them any less charming. In fact, it’s the cliches that make it so enthralling. Smith Westerns present a new twists on something familiar, guitar-pop with teenage angst that will actually make you feel a hell of a lot happier than before.
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