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Thursday, September 21, 2017
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Smith Westerns: ‘Dye It Blonde’ — 4 out of 5 stars

Tags: Music Reviews

“It’s evolve or die, really,” British stand-up comic and actor Craig Charles said. “You have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant.”

Evolving musically from one album to the next can be a crucial concept for a band. With the release of their sophomore effort, Dye It Blonde, the Chicago three-piece band Smith Westerns certainly seems to recognize and embrace the idea of evolving.

Previous influences David Bowie and T.Rex remain evident, but Dye It Blonde is a large departure from their self-titled garage-band debut. Their sound has developed into something more silky and sleek. Both lyrically and musically, there’s a refinement to the majority of the songs. The guitar melodies register as drastically more complex, and as front man Cullen Omor chants “are you glamour amorous/ Shemite eyes make it so obvious,” a lyrical comparison to Bob Dylan is hardly far-fetched.

The downside to this evolution: it’s impossible to adapt to instantly – it takes time. As the album climbs through its later tracks, the songs begin to blur together, seeming slightly imprecise and losing an air of distinctiveness. But that isn’t to say the tracks take on a lack-luster quality – they just don’t ring with as much character as previous standouts like guitar-guided “Weekend," or the piano-riff driven “End of the Night.”

Westerns’ transformation is something similar to if a freshman garage-rocker with crude manners and a desire for lasting love suddenly got shipped to England and slowly fell in love with Britpop and British girls.

Smith Westerns have cited Britpop as a large influence on Dye It Blonde, and it’s definitely noticeable. The album is literally dripping with British pop hooks, from the combined whoo-ing and oh-ing of song choruses to the jangly, riff driven guitar music. At its soul, Dye It Blonde is a fantastic Britpop record. The only difference is there’s an American accent.

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