Few bands can define the sound of summer for me quite like The Smith Street Band. Throughout their 3 previous full lengths, and a few EPs in between, they have always seemed to be able to bottle up the feeling of June through August and transform it into a musical form with their bright instrumentation and self-deprecating but hopeful lyricism. Maybe coming from Melbourne somehow imparts their music with a kind of sonic sunshine, because The Smith Street Band’s newest release, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, carries on this tradition of summery releases in style.
The influence of Jeff Rosenstock as producer on this album is apparent from the opening of the very first song, ‘Forrest’. Known for his own punk and DIY style, it’s obvious that Jeff has encouraged The Smith Street Band to add even more of a fast paced, punk edge to their music, which has paid dividends on this album. Whilst their music has always contained the sensibilities of punk, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me contains a little more bite from the very beginning, and this works to create an album that is definitively The Smith Street Band, carrying with it everything they do well, whilst also embracing just enough change to keep their music fresh. The anthemic sing-a-longs are still present, such as on the lead single, where the chorus and title “Death To The Lads” is tailor made to be shouted back at vocalist Wil Wagner during live performances, but the instrumentation on most songs seems to contain just a little more anger than previous records, whilst still retaining that brightness that typifies The Smith Street Band.
Lyricist and vocalist Wil Wagner has opened up in interviews and a recent Reddit AMA as to the subject of the album, telling of how it documents the beginning, middle and end of a real two year relationship, calling it as close as he will ever come to writing a concept album. Whilst the music of The Smith Street Band has always been heartfelt and confessional, the very real progression of this relationship through the album gives the music a real-world grounding. Despite being based on specific events from Wil’s own life, the lyrics invite empathy from the listener as the natural response, exploring issues of relationship trouble and mental health that could apply to anyone. This is never more apparent than on the song ‘It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive’ where Wil illustrates the cycle of depression and self-blaming, singing “I do not feel that I am loved, but I do not reach out enough”. Many of these songs are stories from Wil’s own life, but his thoughts and feelings through these events are relatable to millions of other people.
I cannot recommend The Smith Street Band enough, especially in the run up to summer, and with More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me they have released yet another solid, interesting record. It manages to tackle some important issues of mental health whilst simultaneously staying within the band’s tradition of records that seem tailor made to listen to in the sun. With more of a punk edge than ever before, I can only see their fan base growing and growing after the release of this record, and The Smith Street Band deserve it.
Listen to More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me here:
Words by Josef Smith
Featured image courtesy of Kane Hibberd