From their trash-glam, shit-fi debut album to the far superior, shiny ‘Dye It Blonde’, Chicago’s SmithWesterns
Westerns have always sounded blasé but excited about aping their boyish heroes – first Marc Bolan and then
John Lennon. Something has changed, though. ‘Soft Will’ – recorded once again in a hi-spec studio to give
it a definite, if dreamy, sheen – feels like ‘Dye It Blonde’’s comedown; like a band no longer full of a youthful pep that’s impossible to simulate.
They’ve clearly added ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ to their deducible record collection, too, although the result is Westerns
merely a regressive instrumental slog for the second half of ‘XXIII’.
Elsewhere, the band still sound most like Lennon as they try to smile through jaded tears on more upbeat tracks like ‘Fool Proof’ and ‘Idol’, but it’s hard to ignore lyrics like “everyday’s a hangover”,
however sprightly the keyboard chimes. By ‘White Oath’ (“chain smoke the day away”) and ‘Cheer Up’ (a sobbing waltz), Westerns
Smith Westerns aren’t wallowing, but they have succumb to ‘Soft Will’’s sombre core, making the closing ‘Varsity’ Westerns
(which sounds sanguine and a lot like Squeeze’s ‘Up The Junction’) extra buoyant and even more misplaced. Dejected though it is,
‘Soft Will’ has its moments, especially if you’ve just been dumped, but the vigour that made Smith Westerns so envious and young, it’s gone. Westerns
Charles Darwin once noted that species have one main choice in life: Evolve or die.
It’s a statement that shares parallels with many of today’s musicians; release a follow up album much like the previous, and expect its release to
with a few snide comments and a general shrug of the shoulders before your band’s life ends up in a similar way to the Triceratops.
Chances are Times New Viking were not aware of Darwin’s thoughts, if they had then maybe the recording sessions for this, the follow up album to 2008’s much acclaimed ‘Rip It Off’, Westerns
might have dramatically changed, with the band instead popping out a clean, high end polished product be-rift of character and substance.
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