Live: Smith Westerns Turn Glasslands Into Their Own Private Garage


Smith Westerns/Ducktails/Bass Drum of Death
Tuesday, January 18

Better Than: Well, certainly staying at home sulking about missing another Prince show at Madison Square Garden.

Every Smith Westerns lead-guitar line is expressly designed to remind you of the solo in “Let It Be”: that warm, sharp, sweetly melodic George Harrison attack, the kind that turns merely OK garage rock into something startling and transcendent. Another way to put it: Best New Music. Join us as these Chicago dudes celebrate their burgeoning Internet fame (via their just-released new record, Dye the World) by crowing “That’s right!” a lot between songs, rhyming “life is a joke” with “makes me wanna choke,” bouncing around jovially, and ripping into those solos not quite often enough.

There are some killer songs here — the elegantly unfolding riff that powers obvious standout “Weekend,” the ramshackle burst into the chorus of the older “Be My Girl,” and especially the anthemic Thin Lizzy strut of “End of the Night” (“Everybody wants to be a star on a Saturday night”) that jolts a packed but otherwise demure crowd. The awesome “Let It Be” guitar thing takes awhile to kick in, finally reaching liftoff on the excellently named “Imagine Pt. 3,” the one that goes “The look in your eyes makes me wanna die/You’re not the girl I used to know.” (The lyrics work better when you don’t think about them too much.) They are young and studiedly nonchalant and sneakily infectious. But your primary reaction still might be to mourn the Exploding Hearts anew: The problem with good power pop is that it will eventually remind you of better power pop. Let the lead guitarist just rail over everything and it’s a different story.

Ducktails open up, sounding very much like the side project from a guy (Matthew Mondanile) in a band named Real Estate: suburban-bedroom pop, three-car-garage rock, whatever part of the house you prefer. Lotta pedals involved, lotta similarly surprisingly bracing solos, lotta smiling, lotta Smashing Pumpkins riffs jokingly played between songs. In the Ducktails universe it still goes the video game > the cartoon series > the band. If I’m being 100 percent honest here, the band I enjoy most tonight is called Bass Drum of Death: Two dudes from Mississippi doing the drums-guitar garage-rock thing, blunt and righteous, like the Misfits if only two of them showed up and neither is Danzig, the singer-guitarist’s face-obscuring mop haircut so impenetrable it’s possible his entire head is on backward. They’re playing Pianos tonight; you will recognize the inspiration behind most of their riffs, but you will also remembers several of them.

Critical Bias: People I trust love these dudes.

Overheard: “This is like my favorite song!” (Immediately after the Ducktails guys, now DJing, drop George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set on You.”

Random Notebook Dump: The sidewalk-slush situations north and south of Metropolitan Ave. are remarkably different.

Smith Westerns Set List
Girl in Love
Still New
Imagine Pt. 3
Only One
Be My Girl
All Die Young
End of the Night

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