The Smith Street Band
Don't Waste Your Anger


4.0
excellent

Review

by BlushfulHippocrene STAFF
April 25th, 2020 | 50 replies


Release Date: 04/17/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Maybe this is the thing that I never get through

I’ve come to terms with the fact that 2017’s More Scared of You is likely the closest we’ll get to a fully developed concept, i.e. narrative, album from The Smith Street Band. Journaling well after the fact a tumultuous real-world relationship from somewhere in its beginning to end – the good, the bad, and the downright abusive – the album is sparse, albeit revealing in its chronicling of events, sprawling, even novelistic in its account. What results, I think, is one of the most effortlessly dynamic, emotionally affecting albums of the previous decade.

Don’t Waste Your Anger, on the other hand, the Smithies’ latest full-length release – their first since, alongside a change in line-up, a temporary unravelling of the band’s public image (a number of emotional abuse allegations made against frontman Wil Wagner, most of which involving the abovementioned, relatively public relationship; a resultant suicide attempt, and the since-reversed blacklisting of the band’s music from the local radio station that helped popularise them) – feels, or rather felt, on first listen, a bit like a disappointment. A disappointment in the sense that, despite a notable sonic shift (the album sounds little like its predecessors), the album feels lacking in something like a broader narrative. An overarching sense of journey, a justification of the album’s form that’s characterised the band’s music since, like, 2014: More Scared of You in a narrative sense, Throw Me in the River in a thematic one.

Don’t Waste Your Anger’s threads, unlike those albums’, feel or felt frayed. Loose and/or untied. At risk of unravelling altogether, grazing its bearer’s elbows in the process.

And this remains true, at least to some extent. But what More Scared of You revealed in its aftermath is that real-world narratives attempting to deal with real-world events bear real-world consequences; and what Don’t Waste Your Anger demonstrates (in a sense, redresses) is that a tell-all chronicling isn’t, and never has been, essential to what was and remains the band’s ultimate goal: to highlight the possibility and illustrate the necessity of surviving.

Which is what Don’t Waste Your Anger does, all things considered: in a way that is, though a little messy and far from narratorial, ultimately more reflective of real life and its troubles than may first appear. The album is, of course, littered with typically Wagneresque mantras: from ‘God is Dead’’s cautiously optimistic, “Nobody cares about you or your pain / But that becomes freedom if you look at it that way”, to the titular closer’s typically trite, though necessary, “Life is hard but keep on living”. Worth noting, the former of these couldn’t be further from the truth: see Facebook group ‘PassionaPosting’, hundreds of strangers invested in Wil’s wellbeing; see fans at shows and on the internet and in Melbourne unis (pre-lockdown), sporting shirts denoting, in some roundabout sense, the one man’s pain. A nevertheless wholesome, even pragmatic approach to recovering from public blowback.

What results then, too, is music that becomes less about the artist in any absolute way, and more about the listener’s reaction to the music, their subsequent internalisation of it. Whether or not ‘I Still Dream About You’ is about an addiction to ciggies or not, then, is totally beside the point: “I” becomes “You” becomes “We”; “You” becomes “Ciggies” becomes “Ex-Lover” becomes “Who or What or Wherever the Fuck it is that You Miss”. (“AND WHEN I SAID ME, I MEANT ANYONE!!!”) Which is the reason, I imagine, the band’s music resonated with anyone in the first place. (See the recent music video for ‘The End of the World’, which features members of the aforementioned Facebook group in isolation, singing and playing along to the mid-album highlight.)

How beautifully relevant, then, the recent addition of the fantastic Jess Locke and the equally talented Lucy Wilson, whose vocals lend even the saddest, loneliest moments on the album a sort of communal heft. Likewise, the band’s relatively recent sonic additions – keyboard, synths, trumpets – manage to make lively what is perhaps the band’s least energetic effort to date. Nowhere is this more apparent than on ‘Dirty Water’, on which soft piano strikes blend and blur with distant guitars to create an atmosphere that is at once lethargic and hopeless, but also strangely gorgeous. Within this context, the song’s overly dramatic hook, “I’ve fallen out of love with people”, feels more freeing than it does painful (or so the intro goes).

On the flip side, of course, is the aforementioned ‘The End of the World’, which feels very much like the typically anthemic Smith Street Band fans have come to know and love. It is, I’m willing to argue, the album’s least interesting track; but what remains true of Don’t Waste Your Anger is that even at its weakest and least cohesive, it feels ultimately justified. Justified in the sense that, though its far less obvious in its structure than its predecessors, at no point do the band sound like they’re phoning it in. Rather the opposite, everything Wagner and co does feels as though it comes from a place of necessity, even desperation, like the writing and releasing and performing of music is all a vital part of the struggle, survival itself, and not merely a product of it.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that 2017’s More Scared of You is likely the closest we’ll get to a fully developed narrative album from The Smith Street Band. And I think, if Don’t Waste Your Anger is the alternative to that, that that’s for the best. ‘It’s OK’, ‘Heaven Eleven’, and ‘Don’t Waste Your Anger’, the trio of closing tracks, hit harder than a telecaster on floorboards; and really, what are The Smith Street Band for if it not to make you want to dance, weep, and carry on?




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3.5
great
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If Throw Me in the River was the Smithies dark, gloomy winter and More Scared of You Than You are of...



Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


29354 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Woah, finished a spin of this about 10 mins ago :O stoked to read!

Digging: Tricot - 10

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


3475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Let me know what you think, I'm very, very rusty. I probably shared your rating on first listen (maybe a little lower even), but this is a grower. It didn't hit me super hard at first, but I'm amazed just how not bored I am of it after what feels like at least a few dozen listens in the past week. And I love it now, picking up on subtle sonic things which has never been the band's strongsuit -- this definitely feels like their most deliberately put together album production-wise. Lotsa fine attention to detail I think.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


29354 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

This was a v solid read! I didn't know much about this band before going into this, so the amount of context and comparative reference to their wider work was v interesting; its making total sense despite my not having much of a reference point is defs a positive reflection of your writing. That I/you/we/ciggies/ex-lover paragraph is also my favourite thing today, love love love that one a lot!

[...]

Anyway, looking forward to spending more time with this and hopefully going back along the breadcrumb trial you laid down here ;]



MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
April 25th 2020


12051 Comments


I'm also lost when it comes to context, but this is definitely a solid review. There's a great discourse over how the audience/circumstances feed into how this turned out or how it's interpreted. Nicely done

Looks like this is going to be a divisive one

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


3475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks a lot boys! Means a lot coming from ya'll.



@Johnny, got rid of that silly "indeed", hope it reads a bit better; I'll have another look through in the morning, though, and see if I can't make it clearer. Cheers for the heads up.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


29354 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Oh yeah, that's a lovely lovely set of clauses now! Redacting my comment asap

Ryus
April 25th 2020


20800 Comments


lol these guys were the shit on 2011 sput

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
April 25th 2020


12051 Comments


Think they still got some support, but I'm unaware of this whole drama aspect and whether or not that might be leaving an impact. Only ever jammed their debut.

DeadGuy
April 25th 2020


1048 Comments


They hit #1 on the Australian music charts, highest of any album they've released. So I don't think they're hurting too bad.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


26086 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

you really hit the nail on the head, Blush!!! This review makes me so happy and does a stellar job explaining why this album’s worth returning to. Thanks so much for the thoughtful approach here

DeadGuy
April 25th 2020


1048 Comments


It still amazes me, everything they have ever released is great. This being maybe #2 behind "Throw Me In The River"

lucazade22
April 25th 2020


615 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, another really good release. I miss some of the busier instrumentation of their previous efforts, though (eg electric guitar in Surrey Dive)

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 25th 2020


60648 Comments


Shouldnt this be the dance gavin dance artwork

Digging: Oklou - Galore

Conmaniac
April 25th 2020


25827 Comments


Blush I love you yes amazing work !! Glad to see you writing again, the passion bleeds through so well it makes me wanna relisten even though I know I won't love it nearly as much...

However...idk if I'm just exhausted after 3 12hr shifts but "Don’t Waste Your Anger, on the other hand, the Smithies’ latest full-length release – their first since, alongside a change in line-up, a temporary unravelling of the band’s public image (a number of...)" makes my head hurt a bit

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


1715 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great writing. Great album.

SlothcoreSam
April 25th 2020


2700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review!! Album's getting better after each listen.

Don't Fuck With Our Dreams EP, is still the best thing they have released, this is 4th behind that, Throw Me In The River, then No One Gets Lost Anymore.

Digging: The Special Bombs - Eruptions

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2020


1715 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can't believe people dislike their last album so much



my favorite part of this record is when he goes "i think that i'm CHICKENSHIT"

Observer
Emeritus
April 26th 2020


8570 Comments


Awesome, blush, very nice, very nice.

Digging: The Trees And The Wild - Zaman, Zaman

Slex
April 26th 2020


10406 Comments


Definitely one of my favorite moments here Chan

Digging: Gulfer - Gulfer

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2020


1715 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

even if he is singing about cigarettes lol



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