"Dye It Blonde." Smith Westerns. Chicago's Smith Westerns recorded their raucous self-titled debut album in 2009, while band members were still in high school. Precocious students of classic garage rock and power pop, as well as glam icons such as Bowie and Marc Bolan, the Smith Westerns debuted with a scrappy and low-rent charmer.
The band's follow-up, "Dye It Blonde," ratchets up the production values and songcraft considerably, layering fuzzed-out riffs with radio-ready hooks that sound lifted from a T-Rex or Beatles album that you can't quite put your finger on.
Coming out of the gate with the assured hit that is "Weekend," Smith Westerns dig their nails in deep, cracking out massive guitar hooks with wistful melodies that damn you to repeat listenings for what could be the rest of your natural life.
"Still New" sounds like it could have been housed on a Deerhunter release, and no doubt Bradford Cox wishes it were. "All Die Young" is a sweeping ballad that again points to the band's considerable glam influences, with traces of ELO's trademark studio wizardry.
If "Dye It Blonde" has one weakness, it's that when you consider it was crafted by a bunch of kids who aren't even old enough to buy beer, it might tick some people off. This amount of talent on display at such a young age is bound to make the unestablished feeling inside hurt a little more.
"Dye It Blonde" is a pitch-perfect pop album steeped in the classic traditions of some of the true greats in the field. It's loaded from top to bottom with the sort of pure rock 'n' roll that only youth can bring.
Freewheeling and ambitious, Smith Westerns have delivered one of this year's strongest statements.