Review Summary: "Where have all the kids from the corners gone?"
When the announcer on the radio stated the simple sentence “we have a band coming on soon who are similar to The Gaslight Anthem, except Australian”, I knew then and there that I was going to sit-out the foreseeable future cooped up in my Holden waiting for said comparison to come on. The next three and a half minutes were spent being completely overwhelmed with joy and subsequently resisting the urge to turn the engine over again and drive straight off to buy the album. The band I was introduced to through the radio waves from inside my Holden was The Smith Street Band; a band native to the city of Melbourne which I also currently inhabit. The result of a trip to the local music store a few days later was a purchase was ‘Sunshine & Technology’ which is The Smith Street Bands sophomore release and it is worth every inch of your attention.
Seemingly powering along from their well received debut album in ‘No One Gets Lost Anymore’ which only was released last year, The Smith Street Band have shown they are committed and able to hone their sound very quickly. ‘Sunshine & Technology’ wastes no time in kicking things off with the title track and the opening chorus shows that Wil Wagner’s poetic lyricism about everyday thoughts, ideals and emotions come complete with their own bang; “Ain’t no sunshine in technology, no holiness in God, magic in the industry or peace that’s built on bombs and I’ll believe in everything, that don’t mean I’m not wrong”. These lyrics translate into a huge sing-along chorus accompanied by forceful drumming which creates a powerful display of alternative punk rock. Wagner’s vocals are often off kilter, spat out and sound slurred, but it works. The emotion and sound of his voice come across completely natural and unique, but are often compared to the likes of Frank Turner. Songs continue to roll off the record and punch you directly in the face from the onset with a prime example being ‘I Want Friends’. ‘I Want Friends’ begins slowly with lyrics that aren’t afraid to swear but builds up to a mix with fast angelic guitar strumming and soaring bass. The Smith Street Band also flirt with aggression here, but rather then come across as plainly being annoyed, it rubs off at being more heart-warming and optimistic.
Apart from Wil Wagner being the ideal lead singer with the lot and the ability to rhyme the un-rhymable everyday relatable lyrics, he cannot do it with the capable band that he has backing him up on every single track. The band simply aren’t going through the motions in order to attempt to bring his stories to life, they help breathe the life into them. They provide the punkish and sometimes bluesy environment of swirling melodies that if absent would not make The Smith Street Band such a special find in modern music. At times the music sounds muffled, but this seemingly lost sense of clarity actually enhances an overall raw feeling of their intoxicating sound. The Smith Street Band never really differ from the upbeat tempo shifting, blend of punk rock with an aggressive aussie twist, except when incorporating acoustic guitar into the foundations of ‘Young Drunk’ and the use of violin in a few other songs. Perhaps the only bad thing about ‘Sunshine & Technology’ is when you think they are attempting a slower more ambient piece, they make you think twice and again bust open into a full on musical assault. But that’s hardly a drawback, I’m just saying if they did write a slower song they would nail it. Songs like ‘Why I Can’t Draw’ start out slower than most and feature prominent lead guitar picking that arouse the senses accompanied by some infectious “whoa oh’s” thrown in for good measure. The lyrics never stop shining and it’s hard to pick a favourite when great lines like “I’m sorry i don’t understand things unless i find music in them” are found in every verse. Expecting the album to fade out after an exceptional start like many do, i was completely wrong. The last half of ‘Sunshine & Technology’ doesn’t lose any momentum and will quickly become one of those rare albums that will drive you crazy with being able to identify which track is your favourite.
Overall, The Smith Street Bands poetic suburban stories about common everyday experiences all but hit home to anyone who can relate. Their creativity and musicianship might be regressive in some aspects but that just makes it all the more special. The lyrics and instruments pour down like torrential rain, but it’s the kind of summer downpour you don’t mind being caught in; enjoying it for every stimulating second.