Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Smithereens 5: A Date With The Smithereens

By the ‘90s, RCA Records long since figured out how to break bands, and tried to stay solvent by offering contracts to bands whose heydays were past. So it was that the Smithereens, who likely felt honored to be a part of the label that once distributed Elvis Presley, ended up with the Record Cemetery of America. A Date With The Smithereens alluded to one of the King’s album titles, touted “Living Stereo” on the front cover, and was even available as a set of 45s, but failed to do much for the band’s fortunes.
Part of the problem was the times, and Pat DiNizio’s mood. Lovelorn is one thing, but here he’s just inconsolable. “War For My Mind” and “Everything I Have Is Blue” aren’t exactly grunge, yet even at a fast tempo they plod. “Miles From Nowhere” was the single, and a good one, but “Afternoon Tea” doesn’t meet its potential by the same chord played on every beat despite the actual modulations in the song. At least “Point Of No Return” and “Sleep The Night Away” (a rewrite of “Cigarette” from the first album) finally provide some of their trademark bite.
“Love Is Gone” and “Long Way Back Again” keep up the energy, and then we come to the misfire of the album, if not the band’s career. The overt Revolver-style arrangement and production belie the misguided op-ed statement of “Gotti”. Their fans don’t listen to the Smithereens for politics, and if the band really felt this way about the situation, you’d think they’d have the balls to extend the title to encompass the message of “free John Gotti”. This isn’t Bob Dylan painting Joey Gallo as a modern-day Western outlaw. While it might’ve made a swell B-side, “Sick Of Seattle” is too clever for its own good, besides repeating the meter from “Sleep The Night Away”. “Can’t Go Home Anymore” drags the proceedings back to normal with a snotty harmonica to boot, which keeps wheezing on “Life Is So Beautiful”.
Ultimately, A Date With The Smithereens turned out to be a one-shot deal; the label didn’t stick with them, and a year later their original label marketed a best-of collection that covered everything they’d do to date, including only “Miles From Nowhere” from this album, and rarities in the way of “Beauty And Sadness” and a cover of “Time Won’t Let Me”. Blown To Smithereens became a perennial catalog piece, both selling the band to newbies and reminding longtime fans of what once was. (For the real geeks out there, Attack Of The Smithereens was loaded with rarities, covers, B-sides and demos, while a decade later, From Jersey It Came! tried to accomplish both hits and rarities in a two-disc package.)

The Smithereens A Date With The Smithereens (1994)—
The Smithereens Blown To Smithereens: The Best Of The Smithereens (1995)—
The Smithereens Attack Of The Smithereens (1995)—3
The Smithereens From Jersey It Came! The Smithereens Anthology (2004)—

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