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Album Review
Dye It Blonde

Dye It Blonde
by Smith Westerns

Fat Possum/SPUNK

Review Date
25th January 2011
Reviewed by
Vincent Michaelsen

Smith Westerns have had no problems in admitting their quest for pop stardom of the highest order, and with the release of the single ‘Weekend’ late last year it seems they might just have it in their grasp. I’ve had the track swirling around my head almost daily for weeks and the hooks still pull me in. It’s the killer fuzz guitar riff and carefree pop styled ‘na na na na na’ vocals that make the song such a perfect teaser for the new album. Given the frantic pace at which these Chicago youngsters have been working and the media that has followed, anticipation for Dye It Blonde has been riding pretty high. Fortunately for all, Smith Westerns have cut a record well on track to pop Valhalla.

Arising through the DIY school of lo-fi recording the band have made huge advances with their second full-length release, enlisting the help of big time indie producer Chris Coady. No longer does each instrument sound more than a little too furry for it’s own good - hiding much of it’s best offerings under a thick fuzz - ‘Dye It Blonde’ comes off glistening with glam-pop purity. The album is rich with bass and drum textures, dual guitars and distinct but never overwhelming undertones of background loops.

Besides an overall improvement in just about every aspect, Cullen Omori’s lead vocal offers the greatest departure from their previous work. Where in their self-titled debut Omori flirted between Marc Bolan and a drunken house party slur – Dye It Blonde reveals a more developed front man, creating a voice to shape the music of the band. Omori, along with lead guitarist Max Kakacek carve out the tracks in fairly astounding rock’n’roll fashion. Kakacek’s relentless licks weave in and out of Omori’s vocals, sometimes mimicking, sometimes chasing and at other times racing ahead with a stadium trembling solo. But still, never clashing.

The abounding influences in Dye It Blonde are clear throughout the record. ‘End Of The Night’ is a cool play through the group’s favorite British classics from T. Rex to The Beatles. The rolling piano throughout the track, especially the cheeky little run up the keys that bring us into the first verse is a quick reminder these guys are well beyond regular four-piece rock band stuff. ‘All Die Young’, probably the album’s slowest and grandest track plays like an anthemic sing-along in the style of Glastonbury’s Britpop heyday, a fine example of the melodic choruses that make this album what it is. While the Smith Westerns that turned us on with their first album are as present as ever in Dye It Blonde, the album is a vast step up for a band showing clear intent on making big tracks. I only look forward to what may come next.


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