Review Summary: The Smith Street Band streamline their sound, but stay truer to themselves than ever
We’re 4 albums in, and The Smith Street Band are still the vehicle for Wil Wagner’s search for balance in life. There’s a song on this album called “It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive”, and if that wasn’t enough of an indication for you, rest easy; Wagner is still sad as hell. To paint him with just one stroke of the brush is unfair, however, because on this new album, Wagner is hitting the whole damn emotional spectrum.
More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
sees Wagner feel loved, yet also unloved; he wants to be alone, but also surrounded; part of him wants to be dead, part of him’s never been so happy to be alive; he’s been laughing (or pretending to laugh) but also crying (or pretending to cry). If nothing else, this album is an excellent case study in human emotion, given how few artists wear their heart on their sleeve as bluntly and honestly as Wagner. At the very least, without checking, he is assuredly the only songwriter to ever pen the lyric “I want to fuck everyone in the supermarket”.
Life is about finding meaning, and the constant push-and-pull of this record in that regard is genuinely fascinating and entertaining. Just when it seems like Wagner’s got it all figured out (“Shine”), he ends up sounding more depressed than ever (the aforementioned “It Kills Me”). That imbalance is good, natural, and ultimately human, and that’s what makes Wagner such a great songwriter; his undying commitment to raw emotion and honesty.
The “get shitfaced now, ask questions later” nature of The Smith Street Band’s punky sound remains untarnished, but is a bit more streamlined than in the past. The production is slicker, with moments like the bombastic intro riff to “Suffer” sounding fit to play in giant arenas instead of the dingy pubs Wagner so often sings about. Fortunately, the less raw nature of the record does not equate to insincerity. “Forrest” is still a banger of the highest order, meant to be played as loudly and unapologetically as “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams” or “I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore”. The cascading walls of guitar and cymbals towards the end of “Song For You” see the band sounding as massive as they’ve ever been. When they want to lean back, like on the indie-folk stylings of “Passiona”, they sidestep all the pretentiousness of their contemporaries without sacrificing an ounce of the catchiness. These are songs you want to sing, and sing as loudly as possible.
As Wil Wagner lets us into his world for the fourth time, it’s really, really hard to not want to root for The Smith Street Band. The chorus of “Run Into The World” deserves to echo in the walls of stadiums everywhere, not because of its hook, but because of just how goddamn real
it is. Above all, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
sees The Smith Street Band solidify their standing as the ultimate band of the people, for the people. Today, fucking everybody in the supermarket; tomorrow, conquering the world. You can bet Wil Wagner will still be a basket case on the other side.