Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band are great, and you’re missing out if you’re presently unaware of them. I suggest you go and look up some of their songs instead of reading this glowing endorsement of their fourth record. You could also read this interview I did with frontman Wil Wagner back in June (if you fancy it). We chatted a little about the record, and how the band self-released it themselves through their label Pool House Records. We chatted also about the record’s predecessor, the equally-excellent Throw Me In The River – which I’d also recommend. It was a good interview (the first I’d ever done) because Wil was a good dude, enthusiastic and passionate about his band and his music, charming and human during the conversation. Wagner didn’t hold back, and he doesn’t when it comes to playing music either, and More Scared Of You… benefits greatly from the humanity of its creators. It’s tongue in cheek, introspective, honest, and immensely likable, from the raucous opener Forrest to the jittery jaunt of closer Laughing (Or Pretending To Laugh).
What I think I like most about this record is its lyrical component. There are a lot of great lines on here, and I tend to find new ones every time I give the LP a spin. Wagner’s a gifted songwriter, his songs have life, and More Scared Of You… is as lively as they come. It’s a party and a funeral at the same time, sometimes pretty damn sad, but always upbeat in light of it. It’s a record about strength and perseverance, the artists putting them on display but having fun while doing it. It’s certainly more optimistic than the band’s prior records, and it shows a great deal of maturation, The Smith Street Band building on the success of Throw Me In The River and trying to one-up what is arguably one of the best punk records of recent years. They come very close.
More Scared Of You… is a record I can’t help but enjoy. Everything about it encourages a smile, even if its bleaker moments. Song For You, for example, is weighted lyrically, Wagner pensive and on the verge of eviction, but it ends joyously triumphant – rapturous in its emotion. It’s one of many similar highs littered throughout the record, which is tightly crafted and gloriously delivered. It maintains a gritty punk edge, but it carried a polish that adds a certain glow to the songs here. It’s true to the band’s routes while trying something new. It’s the soundtrack to a party entering its dying hours when everyone’s drunk and a little bummed, in need of lifted spirits and singalongs. There are a lot of singalongs on here.
There are a lot of singalongs on here. After interviewing Wagner I had the pleasure of catching The Smith Street Band and had a blast, the energy of the record only conveyed more so at a show, infectious and collectively cathartic. I walked away from that show lighter, partly because of the sweat which soaked my shirt, but also because any troubles I’d had prior to the show had momentarily evaporated with the moisture my body heat was sending skywards. The Smith Street Band are beautifully sincere, their songs mix punk and poetry to excellent effect, and they’re the best thing to come out of Australia since High Jackman in the first X-Men movie.
“Staying in a hotel full of pilots
I can’t believe that they are smoking.
If you mastered the art of flight
why would you spend half your time choking?
Sleeping in a bedroom full of assholes surely means I am one too,
and I wake up and I go walking
and I think the wrong thing about you.”