Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Smithereens 6: God Save The Smithereens

Towards the end of last century, new record labels were popping up left and right. Some were subsidiaries of the majors, and despite their best intentions would be all but wiped out once the majors began consolidating. But many were affiliated with some of the more independent distributors, and were run by music geeks who wanted to give some of their old heroes a fresh outlet.
One of these labels was Velvel, which began as a vanity label for the former head of Columbia Records, but soon spearheaded some comprehensive Kinks reissues. It also released Pat DiNizio’s little-heard solo album, and greenlit a new full-fledged Smithereens album.
After five years of no hits, constant gigging, and quite possibly the detour provided by that solo album, God Save The Smithereens isn’t a complete return to form, but wisely avoids any gimmicks. It’s simply a pile of tracks that sound like the band, with crackling drums, loud guitars, and DiNizio’s usual dour croon. “She’s Got A Way” gets a spirited backing the title deserves, before the left turn of “House At The End Of The World”, a collaboration with the otherwise little-known Carrie Akre. “Everything Changes”, “Flowers In The Blood” and “Someday” follow the usual sad path, but “The Long Loneliness” hints at something more upbeat. It’s probably as slow as it is, as any faster it would end up a lot shorter than 1:39.
There’s something a little jazzy about “The Age Of Innocence”, and not just because of the trombone and its being followed by a take on “Gloomy Sunday”. “I Believe” is up there with any of their best tunes, and “All Revved Up” manages to evoke the Beach Boys without being obvious. “Even If I Never Get Back Home” has a nice backwards guitar part at the end, and both “Try” and “The Last Good Time” deviate just enough to sound fresh (for them), sporting chords that hint at dissonance but manage to work.
Given the fluctuating appeal of power pop at that time, God Save The Smithereens could have been welcomed, and even a hit. It wasn’t. The band wouldn’t release a new album for several years, save a few gimmicks we may or may not get to. (For no reason we can determine, the album was reissued in a Deluxe Edition some six years later, augmented not only by some unreleased demos, but Pat DiNizio’s album on a second disc, with live performances and demos tacked at the end of that.)

The Smithereens God Save The Smithereens
2005 Deluxe Edition: same as 1999, plus 27 extra tracks

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