The Smith Street Band: Sunshine & Technology
- This is the second album from Melbourne's loud, rocky but earnest types The Smith Street Band. As before, it features meaty slabs of melodic rock charged with gouts of sometimes tearingly emotive singing. The easiest reference would be The Gaslight Anthem - I know I heard a woah-oh-oh chorus or two in here. The Smith Street lads aren't a simple clone, however, that would be selling them short. For starters, Will Wagner's drunken and distraught wailings on the iniquities of life are, on balance, probably a little smarter than Brian Fallon's. On top of that, Wagner's thickly Melburnian accent puts me in mind, actually, you know, it's less Paul Kelly and a bit more Billy Bragg (there must be something of the mother country in there). Certainly, that pained idealism and heart-felt suffering is something Bragg has owned in the past. It'd have to be Bragg at his rockiest though. The album kicks off with it's title track, a frustrated swipe at the emptiness of ...just about everything. 'No sunshine in technology / No holiness in God / Magic in the industry / Or Peace that's built on bombs.' It starts off as big, melodic, aussie-sounding rock, but the sarcastic sniping builds to a ragged, punky scream before it's done. The enduring themes of the record are layed out here: not just the bankruptcy of societies institutions, but a painful yearning for the loss of a way of life. If I had to guess, I'd say Will Wagner's a bloke in his mid-to-late 20s, bellowing out lines like 'Where have all the kids from the corner gone?!' Wagner's pain is heartfelt, a wound that continues to bleed across the course of the record. Sometimes it feels a little too self-indulgent but when he yells something like 'We were born kicking and screaming, filthy and free / And that's how every other second of our lives deserves to be' it's an anthemic call to pump your fist, rip that tie from around your neck and never grow old. Sunshine & Technology is a coming-of-age record, where everything that has come before seems to be ending: relationships collapsing, friends dying and youth disappearing in the rearview mirror. The anger wears itself out over the course of the record and some acoustic folk-rock starts to smooth out the noisiness. It feels like a respite from an argument that hasn't been won so much as worn out. In the end, though, it was probably good to get it all out: there may not have been answers, but Wagner certainly delivered some pointedly stinging rejoinders to people who want to have a go at him about it; especially ex-girlfriends. I don't reckon he can see what's on the other side of thirty, but maybe I can't either, and, worryingly, I think I'm the one who's actually supposed to know by now. Everybody needs to be drunk and a bit self-indulgent about this stuff, once in a while. If that's where you're at, Sunshine & Technology may well be the record and The Smith Street boys may well be the band you'll need.
- Chris Cobcroft.