Friday, May 8, 2015

Smithereens 2: Green Thoughts

Their first album was something of a slow burner, so the Smithereens were able to keep the momentum going for their follow-up. Green Thoughts finds the boys mining familiar territory — harder power pop, with arrangements that skirt within a hair of outright plagiarism. In other words, just what the people wanted.
“Only A Memory” (its chorus stolen from the melody of Buffalo Springfield’s “Rock ‘N Roll Woman”) burns on a slow riff, and a similar sound drives “House We Used To Live In”. “Something New” cleverly takes its title and sound from American Beatles albums circa 1964, and its opening hook from the Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing” — all in less than two minutes. As sunny as that sounds, it’s still another song of heartbreak, as is “The World We Know”, another stomper, and perhaps another nod to the past, in this case a mid-‘60s Sinatra album. The moody “Especially For You” (which of course was the title of their first album) is built on piano and saxophone accents, and an effective side-closer.
Things turn back up on “Drown In My Own Tears”, something of a radio hit around certain parts. “Deep Black” has a cool near-Leslie guitar part playing off an acoustic, and is also a sunnier arrangement than the lyrics would suggest. You’d expect Pat DiNizio to write a song with a girl’s name in it, and that would be “Elaine”, where he reminds us yet again how lonely he is. The near-swirling production of “Spellbound” doesn’t go too overboard nicely uses the second middle-eight for a guitar solo, justifying its four-minute length. “If The Sun Doesn’t Shine” sports high harmonies and a tinkling harpsichord right out of the Beach Boys for welcome relief, and the closing title track provides another opportunity for a distinct riff.
Just as before, Don Dixon produced, echoing his work with R.E.M., and all the tracks on Green Thoughts are toe-tapping and hummable. Yet for all their homage to the “old days”, the album sports enough sheen to keep it sounding right up to date, and not dated today.

The Smithereens Green Thoughts (1988)—4

1 comment:

  1. This was the first Smithereens album with cuts that I heard on the radio. Relistening, I think it improves over the first one. There are more hooks here, and all sorts of cool interweaving guitar parts. They made good choices for singles – “Only a Memory”, “House We Used to Live In” and “Drown in My Own Tears” should have been big hits "The World We Know" is a monster, with that heavy riff and those (Fairlight? Synclavier?) blasts. "Especially for You", once again, taps Bacharach, but this time sounds like it was filtered through Elvis Costello first. My other big pick is “If the Sun Doesn’t Shine”. That song provides a keyboard solo straight from “In My Life”, happy harmonies and an optimistic lyric that contrasts both with the title and Pat’s usually more dour view on romance and life on the rest of the album. The other tracks aren’t quite as strong, but still really good.

    I heard an interview at this time with Pat that he didn’t like the band being pegged as 60’s copyists, pointing to the modern production, among other things. OK.. One way he might have avoided the tag is by choosing different cover art for the album. It looks like the opening credits for a show like “The Invaders” or “The Time Tunnel”. Almost makes you look for a credit like “A Quinn Martin Production” on the back cover.