Smith Westerns clean up sound on glam- soaked sophomore LP, 'Dye It Blonde'

The Smith Westerns recorded their 2009 self-titled debut in guitarist Max Kakacek’s basement, and by the sound of it, they set up the microphones somewhere near the top of the stairs. Muffled and distorted, the album recalled ’60s garage and ’70s glam, even as the then-teenage Westerns clung fast to their generation’s prevailing lo-fi indie-rock aesthetic.

On “Dye it Blonde” (Fat Possum), recorded in New York City with producer Chris Coady, the Chicago quartet proves the cruddiness of that first record was more an artistic choice than a crutch. Coady gives the sound a good scrubbing, and as singer Colin Omori’s falsetto vocals cut through the T. Rex guitars, differentiating themselves in ways they didn’t before, real songs begin to emerge.

Speaking, as one must, of T. Rex, Marc Bolan’s “Electric Warrior” guitar tone dominates the album, although the Westerns also infuse “Still New” with soaring Mott the Hoople breaks and use that band’s “All the Young Dudes” as the basis for “All Die Young,” a tune about savoring the excitement of youth.

That and the closer, “Dye the World,” are about as close as the Westerns get to recreating the anything-goes, pro-weirdo vibe of Bolan, Bowie, and the rest of the OG glitter gang. They mostly stick to straightforward love songs, although highlight “Smile” offers something a bit more profound: a pragmatic Gen Y take on glam’s optimism. “Yeah, it’s a waste of time,” Omori sings of life, “but the sun still shines, and it shines for you.” You won’t fool the children of the children of the revolution.

— Text by Kenneth Partridge, photo by Jaein Lee

Smith Westerns – “All Die Young” by forcefieldpr

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