Review Summary: A unique mix of punk and folk that will have you shouting along in no time.
I first came into contact with The Smith Street Band when I saw them open for Bomb The Music Industry! earlier this year. Having been hanging out watching some of the local hard-core bands do their thing while sipping pints of beer, the Smith Street guys seemed a little out of place compared to the other supports. While there was one notable Mohawk, the piercings and neck tattoos had been replaced for the most part with an understated, shaggy stage presence and, wait for it… an acoustic guitar. With all the screaming and chugging of the previous bands still ringing in our ears, people started looking around as if to say, “who the hell are these guys?” As I found out from their set that night and upon listening to their album, The Smith Street band are not your typical punk band.
No One Gets Lost Anymore is a very personal album, an account of the various experiences of the band members set to a DIY folky-punk soundtrack you can’t help but sing along to on second and third listens. It combines bright pop hooks, acoustic melodies, layered washes of feedback and great fill-heavy, up-tempo drumming, which drives much of the record. The DIY feel and charm of the record belies the impressive musicianship of the band, with their deft melodies and rocking crescendos perfectly accompanying the introspective vibe of their lyrics.
Songs like ‘Belly Of Your Bedroom’ unfold around lively acoustic strumming that actually seems more punk than folk, while other songs like ‘I Ain’t Safe’ cloak their thoughtful lyrics in walls of textured distortion. The songs rarely stick to anything resembling a formulaic structure, and are better thought of as eclectic mash-ups of their favourite genres of folk and punk with some poppy moments scattered intermittently here and there. The vocals are very varied in their tone and delivery, though I find them occasionally irritating. The really ‘occa’ Australian delivery gets a bit much at times, especially in the quieter passages where it distracts from the mood of the music. Overall though, this is just a small pet-dislike and the chorus vocals especially are great.
As could be expected from a fusion of folk and punk, the tempo of this record is very varied. Minimalist folky melodies cascade into raucous shout along choruses with very tight, layered guitar work that reminds the listener that while TSSB may be sensitive, mock-meat loving Melburnians… they still have balls. This may seem a crude assessment of their musical skills, but it is their ability to combine their articulate, vulnerable side with a kick-ass punk attitude that makes their sound a unique one.
No One Gets Lost Anymore should appeal to a pretty broad audience. Punk and ska fans could appreciate their shout along choruses and unorthodox heavy moments, while pop and folk fans may enjoy their soft, brooding passages and bright pop hooks. As a combined package, I find the mix-up of the genres allows for great sound dynamics. Rocking choruses provide contrast with some of the softer passages and ensure they don’t become boring, while the moodiness of the quieter parts stops the heavy sections from becoming monotonous. I think the band pull off these dynamics well, as the album never sounds unbalanced despite it’s contrasting styles.
Overall, this is a varied, rewarding listen and a very solid debut. The band is clearly very talented and they skilfully manage to intertwine their disparate influences into creating their own unique sound. Some, like myself, may find the vocals grating at times but there is really very little fault to be found on NOGLA. I would highly recommended it for any punk/ska/folk fans who don’t mind a little mash-up of all three styles into the one album.