Review Summary: and here it isThrow Me In The River
is kind of like a Weakerthans album happening backwards. No one dances or has a chill time – no one is sending postcards that try to say I love you and end up saying ILUxox instead, because sincerity is hard. Actually, the Smith Street Band are the most fu
cking appallingly sincere band of all time, and Wil Wagner is dumbfounded at the question “are you for real?”. How could you even ask that? He literally means everything
– everything he says, but also everything that has ever been said by anyone else. If John K. Samson could just say it all, instead of postulating what the world would be like if he were able to say it all, he would have written this album.
There’s a song on here that sounds a hell of a lot like Coldplay, too, and I fu
cking love it. It’s like if Chris Martin knew what whiskey was and sang about fu
cking – I don’t mind that he doesn’t do that, but I’m glad someone else does, with him in mind.
I’ve struggled with the Smith Street Band a lot. I hate open wounded songs like these as much as I love them – I breathe in bands like this obsessively, then return to them a month later and wonder if what they’re making can even be called music. But I think Wil Wagner has turned that about, because on top of screaming these steep cliff-hanger lyrics, he adds a word or two about how serious he really is: like “When I said I wanted to die, I meant it”. Or when he cuts himself off from the world he kinda knows we’ve seen it in a TV show, and won’t get fooled again. So he laughs about it, rolling his eyes half way through a guitar riff: get high, see no one, [laugh]
. Emo and pop-punk have come back so strongly because they’re made by sincere hobbyists, and because expressive, honest narratives made by truthers are enough to qualify as good art in 2014, but Wagner knows that the best songs are made with a roar, an exaggeration of the truth – and then after, an omission about how stupid it all is. “You deserve more than another fu
That Throw Me In The River
is glorious and miserable in hand-holding tandem is no surprise: the lyrics shared between opener and closer are proof enough that Wagner just wants to carry a weight and carry it well. “All I ever needed was something I could hold in my hands” should be the by-line of all this pop and folk and fake punk, because without the called-off love affairs and deep troubles there’d be nothing worth screaming back to your fans, who may or may not be going through the same shi
t, but are mostly just a louder version of the live studio audience from Friends, with more patch-sewing ability and less heteronormativity (uh, sometimes?). It’s not universal, because no music is – it’s just a heavy weight, which fans are happy to carry, even if the box is just full of broken glass from all the bottles the Smith Street Band broke.
I realise y’all are at the Fest right now, so I can say whatever the fu
ck I want. But I really, truly adore Throw Me In The River
. It feels like a very real album, which is always a delightful thing to happen in this nebulous little genre. Christmas Island
felt like the real deal. So did Cerulean Salt
. And Vacation
felt so proper – I remember “the Pet Sounds of punk” being thrown about, but how about the OK Computer of orgcore? And Throw Me In The River
feels like an immaculately crafted piece of noisy heartbreak from start to finish, like some scarred gem with more log-cabin fantasy than a whole lot of Bon Iver nonsense. Even though all these songs happen in places like New York and Melbourne and other places you can buy weed rather than grow it. I can feel it all coming from the same place, from the same rooms, with songs rolling out as a direct result of other songs – getting high in “Get High” thanks to the turmoil of “Arrogance”, or getting thrown into the cold water in the title track and realising half way through it’d be more fun to bomb into the water and fu
cking Love Life for what it is instead. A lot of thought went into telling this whole truth, and to be honest, I love that. I love life, too, but in a Smith Street Band way: it’s the fu