The past few years were very much a time for musical throwbacks. We had Shoegaze in the form of A Sunny Day In Glasgow and Warpaint, polished late-80s pop in Twin Shadow’s Forget and sneaking in without much fanfare back in 2009 was Smith Westerns’ debut album; a nod to glam-rock and an Electric Warrior for the Lo-Fi generation. Since then, in the wake of almost universal critical acclaim the band signed to an ultra-cool indie label (Fat Possum records, who also happened to reissue T-Rex’s The Slider last year) and started recording their follow-up whilst touring with the likes of Big Pink and Girls. Now 2 years older (but still ridiculously young) the Chicago band have produced a more thoughtful record which keeps the 70s influences and just slows them down a bit.
“Still New” has an unmistakable Mott The Hoople style hook and “Imagine Part 3” is reminiscent of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky sung by Bobby Gillespie but these similarities can all be forgiven due to the sheer quality of the songs. Things do, however, get slightly clichéd on “End of the Night” which is a nod-back too far and doesn’t come with the charmingly warm resonance that filters through most of this album. The band are at their best when they mix things up a bit more, like on “All Die Young” which crams a handful of classic song writing elements into a neat 3 and a half minute package. Also, despite its unimposing start “Smile” turns into one of the better cuts on the record thanks to a masterful chorus and angelic choir backing.
All things considered, Dye It Blond is a step forward for Smith Westerns, it’s fair to say that their sound isn't original by any means but the songs are good so we’ll let them off. Noel Gallagher ripped of the 60s and 70s for years and it didn’t do Oasis any harm until he forgot how to stick all the pieces together. That was after 2 albums so let’s just hope that the Smith Westerns don’t fall into the same trap.