Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Album Review: More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me by The Smith Street Band

There weren't many new albums due for release in 2017 that were more anticipated than The Smith Street Band's follow up to 2014's album of the year (for me), Throw Me In The River. This month the band released a brand new album named More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, the first release on their new label Pool House Records. With the amazing Jeff Rosenstock again producing, I had very high expectations of this album.

The first song Forrest wastes absolutely no time in getting the album going. No soft introduction just an explosion of those trademark Wil Wagner vocals kicking the song off in great style. Musically this is a fast and pounding song that doesn't slow down throughout its duration. From the outset of More Scared you know that you are in for a massive ride with this album. Forrest is a song dedicated to a small country town in Australia, named Forrest, where the band recorded Throw Me In The River. It talks about how Forrest began to feel so much like home that returning to their normal headquarters, Melbourne, felt more like leaving. The second song Birthdays is one of the songs that the band released early to help promote the upcoming album. This song is everything I've come to expect from a Smith Street Band song. Musically it has loud, crashing moments mixed with some sweet and tender party. Lyrically it's incredibly deep and has a real life affirming vibe and it's so incredibly catchy. The lines that stood out the most on my first listen of the song are "We Are More That Future Housewives, More Than The Sum Of Our Past Lives." Wil Wagner has said that he wrote those lines because of a friend of his said that she was "nothing but a future housewife." Wagner was so upset by the notion of belittling stay-at-home parents he was inspired to write this love song. The third song is another that was released early by The Smith Street Band. They've actually be playing it live since at least last July when they toured the UK. If you were at any of those shows or have seen the Smithies since then you've more than likely already heard Death To The Lads. This anthemic track has a huge chorus that will get incredible sing-a-longs wherever the band play. It's about growing up, changing and trying to improve yourself. It's also is a direct hit out at lad culture that has polluted society in recent years and takes at stand against that "laddish" behaviour. A Song For You is about unrequited love and the feelings that come from that. In true Smithies fashion there is a wonderful building bridge section before a big finale for an extended chorus that will, again, sound incredible live. Smithies drummer Chris Cowburn plays a blinder throughout the song - some of my favourite drumming on any Smith Street song.

The fifth song on the album is named Passiona. Passiona takes more of a slower paced melody compared to the opening four songs on More Scared Of You. Incidentally the album takes its name from a lyric in this song. Passiona is a track about struggling through life and feeling bad about how you feel that society looks down on you and your friends. The line "I'm Having Panic Attacks On German TV" is actually something that happened to Wil as he and the rest of the band performed on German TV during a time when Wil's mental health was at a low point. Run Into The World continues with the slower songs. I like the song ordering here, calming things down after a breathless start to the album. This is an interesting song that starts quite bleak but finishes in a truly uplifting way. The Smith Street Band are joined by Laura Stevenson of Laura Stevenson and the Cans/Bomb The Music Industry fame and Tim Rogers who is an Australian musician best known as the frontman of rock band You Am I. Stevenson's part in particular is a highlight of the song, especially when Wagner joins her for some spectacular harmonies. The uplifting tone continues on the following track Shine. Similarly to the album's opening track, it starts with Wil's vocals immediately opening the song. If you own the LP version of More Scared Of You then this is the opening song of side B of the record. I like the symmetry of the first songs on each side. It's a lovely piece of synchronicity. Shine is a song about accepting who you are and making the most of your life as nothing is permanent. The pre-outro to the song is absolutely superb with a choir providing some incredible backing harmonies that make the track sound huge! I can't wait to see this song live. The eighth song, 25, is about growing older and making comparisons to the life of people who are the same age as you. Wil has a great skill to write honest and relatable lyrics. One that stood out to me was "When I Turn 25 I Was Terrified, Still Haven't Learnt To Do The Dishes" as it is painfully relatable to my life.

It Kills Me To Have To Be Alive is potentially the saddest song title of the year. It suits the song however as it's heartbreaking. It is about Wil's struggles with depression and feeling unloved. Musically it's a simple song for the most part with just guitar, synth and vocals, as Wil lets out his feelings in a way that really pulls on your emotions. It takes a massive amount of bravery to be able to release a song such as this to the public, I don't know Wil personally but he's someone I'm incredibly proud of for having the strength to do this. Suffer is one of the angriest songs that The Smith Street Band ever written. I have to say, I really love angry Smith Street Band. The venom that comes from Wil's voice is powerful, you can tell he means every single word that he's singing. What's he so angry about I hear you ask? Suffer is about bands who only focus on the negative parts of being in a band. These days a lot of bands talk on stage about dealing with crowd violence and incidents happening at their shows and how it seems as if it's now a badge of honour to talk about these things even if it isn't happening at your shows. The penultimate song on the album is named Young Once. This is that epic masterpiece that appears on every Smithies album. Starting with some rough, raw sounding vocals accompanied by some acoustic guitar, it's a interesting and different way to get the song going. Of course, the song builds in a brilliant way that only The Smith Street Band can do. The guitar riffs for the chorus are among my favourites by the band. The track itself is about looking back on things and realising that some of the things you thought were the most important back then weren't really that important at all. Finally the track that we finish More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is titled Laughing - Or Pretending To Laugh. This is another slow builder where Wil sings about having a perfect night with a girl in New York and that happy, giddy feeling that you get by being around someone that you really like. Lyrically this song it absolutely perfect. It's sweet, smart, humourous and full of love - everything I've come to expect from Wil Wagner. This is a completely beautiful way to finish the album.

It was always going to be almost impossible for me to rate this album better than Throw Me In The River. Throw Me In The River came out at a time when I was seriously suffering with a lot of things in my life and that album helped me through a lot so I'm sure you can imagine that that album means a massive amount to me. That said, More Scared Of You... is a superb album - obviously, The Smith Street Band only release superb albums. It's been fun witnessing the band grow bigger and bigger with each release, starting with No One Gets Lost Anymore right through to where they are now. It's only a matter of time until they breakthrough to the mainstream and take their rightful place as one of the biggest bands in the world.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.