The Smith Street Band – More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
Released: 7th April 2017
Wil Wagner – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Lee Hartney – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Chris Cowburn – Drums, Backing Vocals
Michael ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Facebook: The Smith Street Band
The Smith Street Band have amassed a huge following in the 7 or so years they’ve been active. More than just another band, they’ve cultivated an honest and urban sound that is influencing bands all around Australian and across the world. More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is the fourth studio album from the Melbourne-based lads, and while it’s certainly a thoughtful piece of songwriting it’s not offering much that we haven’t seen before.
I’ve always been in two minds about TSSB. I really enjoy the energy they bring to their performances, and there is a thoughtfulness to their music that gives everything they do a certain amount of longevity and importance. However, I’ve never really found their music particularly fun. I find their style a little meandering and too abrasive for my own tastes. These boys are an excellent band to see live but their records just aren’t fun enough to crank up loud and get you in a positive mood. And that might not be the point of their music, but it’s something I value. The new record leans further into their trademark sound, and I think that’s to the detriment of the record. The band just doesn’t seem to have pushed themselves. Rather than expand their music, it feels a little more like they’ve honed in on certain things. That being the case, I think that fans are going to really like this album, but it will likely be a little off-putting for new listeners.
Despite this, it’s clear that TSSB have grown as songwriters. Vocalist Wil Wagner has refined his lyrics, finding a level of directness that allows him to communicate with renewed clarity. The dynamics of the guitar work are also impeccable – Hartney and Wagner utilise expert control over the hardness of every note and it really works to elevate the tone of each section. I wouldn’t call their approach minimalist, in fact, it’s likely a ‘fuller’ than anything they’ve released previously, but there’s still a tendency towards ‘less is more’ across all the instrumentation. At this point, it’s a staple of their sound and what brings out the folksy charm at the heart of their music.
I absolutely believe there is wonderful songwriting across this album, but there is also a sense of sameness. And over multiple listens the songs start to blend together. Moments of excitement are few and far between and overall the record just feels a little bland. It comes down to a noticeable lack of heaviness – an absence of ‘edge’ to their music. Heaviness isn’t all about distorted guitars and beefy basslines, it’s something that can be accomplished even by a solo artist with an acoustic guitar – but it’s something that is missing here, and the album suffers for it.
It’s important to consider art within its own context, and I think that fans of TSSB are going to love this album. It’s as authentic as anything they have ever done, and as a band, they are an important part of Australian music right now. As a progression of their work More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is an acceptable record, maybe even a good one, but outside of what they’re trying to accomplish I just don’t think it has a lot of appeal. This is an album I really wanted to like, but ultimately, I just can not get on board.
Review by Dave Mullins
The Smith Street Band – More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me Tracklisting
- Death To The Lads
- Song For You
- Run Into The World
- It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive
- Young Once
- Laughing (Or Pretending To Laugh)
More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is out April 7th, Pre-Order your copy here