Review Summary: Nothing's ever gonna kill me if I can play guitar and singDon’t Waste Your Anger
was a notable departure from the status quo for The Smith Street Band, featuring a plethora of amorphous ambient buildups, a Latin-tinged jam session at the end of album highlight “Heaven Eleven”, and above all else, laser-focused song structures. The Smithies’ greatest strength has always been their ability to change the trajectory of a song on a dime, whether it’s the rollercoaster tempo changes of “Get High, See Mice” or the gut-wrenching bridge of “Don’t Fu
ck With Our Dreams”. Life After Football
largely returns to this frenetic style of songwriting, with some of the band’s most mixed results to date. Six albums in, it’s impressive that the ever-growing lineup of the Melbourne outfit have yet to release a truly disappointing record, although the gaps between their hits and misses appears to be growing even faster than their cast of performers.
As was the case with Don’t Waste Your Anger
, and to a lesser extent 2017’s More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
, Life After Football
enters stage right with a bang and offers three of its most immediately captivating songs right off the bat. “A Conversation With Billy Bragg”, “When I Change My Name”, and “Dilute” are vintage Smith Street Band, from their rollicking guitar leads to their dizzying tempo shifts and anthemic choruses (“Nothing’s ever gonna kill me / If I can play guitar and sing”). Wil Wagner’s unmistakable songwriting voice shines as brightly as ever on these highlights, and even does enough heavy lifting on most of the lowlights to make them somewhat memorable. There are other gems scattered throughout that play to similar strengths, although a concerning amount of them are previously released material; the title track and “I Don’t Wanna Do Nothing Forever” are two of this album’s crowning achievements, and they’ve both already been available to stream for several months. The bookending tracks of “Nightmare” and “I Deserve Love” manage to end the record on a strong and poignant note, but only after stumbling through a volatile collection of sub-3-minute songs that either go nowhere (“Black T-Shirt”), seem to be going somewhere but abandon their journey (“A Conversation With Your Old School Friends”), or occasionally stick the landing with flying colors (“Elvis”).
“Everyone Is Lying To You For Money” is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard in my life. There are almost no chord changes. The melody is only one note for the entire song, repeated with no rhythmic variety. The chorus excels at getting stuck in my head, but it also excels at being infuriating. The album’s absolutely dynamite opening run is soured by this sorry excuse for a track, which is easily TSSB’s worst offering to date. The way it’s just hilariously sandwiched between two of this album’s most triumphant and beautiful songs cracks me up, but I think I’m just laughing to hide the pain. Life After Football
would make a genuine push for a 4 rating without the unfortunate inclusion of “Everyone Is Lying To You For Money”, but it’s still worth checking out thanks to the coexistence of 6 or 7 marvelous cuts that could comfortably stand toe to toe with the band’s previous work. Whereas Don’t Waste Your Anger
settled for consistency and made a wonderful album out of it, Life After Football
daringly sprints in the opposite direction, crafting an unpredictable and inconsistent excursion with much higher highs and much lower lows than their 2020 effort. It’s easy to be disappointed when the album misses the mark, but it’s simultaneously comforting to see The Smith Street Band making adjustments to their formula and daring to take some risks.