Smith Westerns ‘Soft Will’ – Review

14 Jul
In 1966, The Who sang ‘hope I die before I get old’ yet somewhere down the line they did grow old and two members were alive long enough to be playing that song in their sixties. Rock n Roll is quintessentially a young man’s game, but as The Who learnt, everyone has to grow up at some point. Even Smith Westerns; the time has come for them to adapt or die. Everything that’s good about this band has been borne out of youthful instincts and desires. Their debut was snotty, lazy and almost unbearably enthusiastic. The producer of the second album held their attention long enough to record them in a proper studio with proper equipment and the result was a more focused, but no less adolescent record that pondered the big questions with wide-eyed wonder and innocent (as far as innocence is allowed in very post-modern teenage society) sincerity.
It’s fair to say that on new album ‘Soft Will’ the band tackle the same themes, as seen through slightly older and slightly more cynical eyes. On their debut they sang ‘we’ll go to the beach and get fucked up’, here it’s a more charged ‘when I was with my friends, laughed and joked, even though I’ll never be with them.’  It’s an album that’s often euphoric with a hint of sadness. Take ‘Best Friend’, a song that’s superficially joyous; over a bed of major chords Omori serenades a girl, calling her ‘the only one and my best friend’ but the girl in question won’t let him see her again, which leads to our protagonist drinking the days away. We’re still in the teenage angst arena but there are definitely signs that Smith Westerns are maturing in just the right way.
You can still hear Britpop’s heavy, stomping influence on the way these songs swagger about, and equally you can imagine the chiming guitars and dreamy synths being snatched from the C86 mixtape. Smith Westerns merge these distinct styles together in a way that other Britpop-revival bands just don’t have the imagination to do. ‘Varsity’ steers just clear of anthem territory – instead of real sweeping synths they’ve made do with a cheap synth on the string preset. It adds personality. As on ‘Dye It Blonde’ there is also a big Glam influence, although it’s been toned down a bit, with slower tempos allowing for more nuanced six-string jangles. It makes this a much less exciting album than ‘Dye It Blonde’ but a far more rewarding one. They favour consistency and cohesion over variety, so you’ll decide pretty quickly whether this album’s for you as one song is pretty hard to distinguish from another. That said, if you are fond of Britpop swagger, C86 melodies and Glam riffs then you aren’t going to find anything better than ‘Soft Will’ in 2013. This is a supremely melodic and admirably ambitious guitar pop album, and they are increasingly hard to come by.

8.5/10

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