Review Summary: Get ready to drink alone and sing along, because being depressed just got a whole lot more Australian.
I'll say this for the sake of full disclosure: I'm pretty sure I'm madly in love with Wil Wagner. The frontman of Aussie punks The Smith Street Band, Wil and the Smith Street Band have slowly been building a cult around themselves the past few years. Wil Wagner's trademark is his incredibly honest and personal writing style, so open and revealing that he might be one of the only people to openly admit to being sh
it in bed in a song. In preparation for releasing a new album with The Smith Street Band later this year, he has decided to release Laika
, a stripped down acoustic EP about being young, dumb, and depending on the moment, happy or sad.
Wagner's sound is a mixture of early Frank Turner and perhaps some folk punk, Andrew Jackson Jihad et all. While his distinctly nasally Australian accent is a little strange at first, it grows into a charming bit of hometown flavor quickly enough. You're going to hear a lot of simple chords played over vocal harmonies, and a lot of sing a long choruses. If you're too hip and/or metal to dig that, then its probably best you sit waiting for Parallax XXII or the new So I Watch You From Blah Blah. This is for people who can get into an incredibly lyrical singer songwriter with a flair for self deprecation and an ear for a good, quirky vocal melody.
The lyrics are the crux of the EP. Wil seems to tap right into the scariest parts of the psyche, simultaneously explaining the faults in himself and then tearing them to bits. Think Titus Andronicus' The Monitor
and its tendency to build up and tear itself down, but replace all the negativity in their self-loathing with the can-do attitude Wil exudes at every turn. While most of the songs on here do focus on Wil's struggles with simply being a human being, the most heartfelt and touching song on the record is the eponymous "Laika", a crushing tale about the Soviet dog who first went into space. Emotionally devastating, the song takes on the view of Laika as she awaits her lonely, doomed voyage into space. Lines like "And I know I will die, but that is fine 'cause in some way I am helping mankind/and I don't understand because I'm not as smart as them/but even a parachute would have shown that they cared" paint a tear-inducing picture of arguably one of the most unsung heroes of the 20th century. If you don't at least begin to get reduced to a weeping child by the song, you are either soulless or distressed at the lack of blastbeats to be found in the song.
won't be some sort of cross-over success, as it seems to be way too personal and stripped down to reach a large new audience, but if you want to hear one of the most promising up-and-coming songwriters around, it's a great place to start. It could use a little more variation, but the strength of the narratives and the catchy melodies strewn throughout do a lot to keep the record from getting stale. Also, getting back to my original point...Wil, if you want to go out for a drink at the next Fest, I'll buy. It won't get creepy...probably.