The Smith Street Band – Throw Me In The River

There’s no question that I am a huge fan of The Smith Street Band, I have seen them live 15 times (with tickets to see them two more times in September) I own all of their albums on vinyl; including two copies of both Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams and Throw Me In The River, and I credit the band’s drummer for getting me into punk rock. To elaborate on that last point; Chris, the drummer of The Smith Street Band was a childhood friend of my oldest brother and got my other brother into punk, who then got me listening to the genre. So thats how I first found the band, just after No One Gets Lost Anymore was released I heard Chris was doing something new, something that was possibly better than the time he spent in The Go Set and I had to check it out. I thought I was getting into the band late when I liked them on Facebook with about 2,200 likes, in no way did I expect them to drop two more albums and explode into Melbourne’s biggest punk band with international recognition. I still struggle to believe it when I meet someone who says “you should check out The Smith Street Band”, that used to be my line. With all this being said my opinion on the album is quite possibly biased, I don’t think it is, but it very well could be.

Throw Me In The River is the first time The Smith Street Band (TSSB) have really deviated from their very distinctive folk punk sound evident on their first two albums No One Gets Lost Anymore and Sunshine & Technology. Thats not to say that the album doesn’t resemble TSSB; Wil Wagner’s unique Aussie accent is still screaming out the well written lyrics as passionately as ever, and a lot of people may think the album still sounds exactly like the bands older work, but for a long time listener with a love for the band its easy to pick up the differences. I struggle to label the album as “more punk” than previous releases but I certainly have to say that its less folk than previous releases, well and truly stepping into the realm that I have [somewhat jokingly] coined “hipster punk” (think; The Menzingers, Ceres, Iron Chic, Beach Slang). I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but its certainly a different thing, and exactly what the band needed to do to evolve their sound and take the step from local band to headline band. I have no doubt at all that this is TSSB’s best release to date, and while it may not be my favourite, it does have my favourite Smith Street song on it; Calgary Girls.

The album starts off on a slow note with Something I Can Hold In My Hands and with slightly distorted/muffled vocals the first impressions are that TSSB have significantly changed their sound to a more Indie sound. This lasts just 53 seconds before the electric guitars kick in and the listener is hit with the powerful sound that TSSBhavebecomeknownfor.Again,ittakesjust1:15intothealbumwhenWil Wagner first goes into his slightly louder, slightly crackling yelling that those familiar with the band know is typical of his passion, that’s when it becomes obvious that the album may be more mature than previous releases but it still retains all the things that make The Smith Street Band Special. This song flows seamlessly into the second song on the album, Surrender, which makes for tremendous listening

particularly on vinyl and at live shows; it can almost be difficult to tell that there has been a transition from one song to another. Surrender is probably my least favourite song on the album and like “When I Said Us I Meant Them”, my least favourite song from Sunshine & Technology, I think it is due to it’s repetitiveness. I find it hard to criticise The Smith Street Band on many things that they do, but in my opinion lyrical repetition to the degree that these two songs show doesn’t suit them as a band, and more specifically doesn’t suit Wil’s vocals. It wouldn’t surprise me if I’m the only one who thinks this though, after all the song managed to sneak into the Triple J Hottest 100 at number 69 and is by far the bands most successful song to date.

Calgary Girls is the fourth song on the album and it is 5 minutes of absolute listening pleasure. I had heard this song played a number of times before the album came out and I already had a very high opinion of it, particularly when played by Wil solo, but it came out even better on the album than I anticipated. It’s lyrically the best song on the album, and it would be hard to argue that it’s not also the best song on the album musically; for the first time and probably only time TSSB have an orchestra playing the music along with the typical band members and it makes the music perfect for the lyrics. “I know there’s a script that I could rehearse, and there’s lines and I could make them work, but I don’t want them; I want you” are the lines that resonate through the song and my personal favourite lyrics from the album. I think these are lines that many people who listen to this music could relate to, not wanting to be the dick at a bar using shitty pickup lines, but not having a reasonable chance of forging a relationship with the person you would like to.

The song “Get High, See No One” pays homage to a running joke in the Australian punk scene that started with The Smith Street Band’s “Get High, See Mice”. This was followed by Lincoln LeFevre writing a song titled “Get Drunk, See Bands” and Luca Brasi writing a song titled “Get Sad, See Mates”. This song title then became the theme of their tour titled “Get High, See Everyone”. Moving onto the second last song of the album “Throw Me In The River”, the title track of the album, is another great song showcasing Wil’s incredibly strong vocals, and the bands ability to seamlessly switch between slow, quiet, almost (but not quite) folk music to loud passionate punk. This alternation between styles is reminiscent of “Tom Busby” and “Young Drunk”, but unlike those songs Throw Me In The River demonstrates the bands ability to return to the quieter style mid song; rather than be limited to starting a song quiet then blasting into punk rock and staying there. This is certainly an area where TSSB have improved over the years; a lot of bands struggle with tempo and stylistic changes within a song, it’s certainly not an easy thing to do well, but this song is a huge tick for TSSB’s ability to pull it off. When Wil Wagner screams “So throw me in the fucking river” it’s just as passionate as *that line* in Sigourney Weaver (you know the one..) and as such is met with a crowd reaction to rival both *that line* and “Don’t fuck with our dreams!” at live shows.

The song “I Love Life” rounds out the album on an overwhelmingly positive note – not something I expected from Wil Wagner going into this album, but I certainly understand it. The line “This time last year I was miserable and I lost a lot of friends.” is one of the best on the album when put into context by the song. It’s not easy to write a positive song, thats why not many bands do it, but this song is a great effort and sung with the same passion as Wil’s more angry songs it really highlights how hard Wil worked to pull out of his misery, and how [rightfully] proud of that he is. The song rounds out with the lyrics “All I ever wanted was something I could hold in my hands”, taken from the first song on the album, it reinforces that the band deliberately structured the album in a certain way and listening to it in order delivers the best experience for listeners.

All in all this is an amazing album, I know every word to every song and I can finally have this playing in my car and have people ask “what band is this?” rather than ask me to turn it off. Wil Wagner sings with a passion that is rare in music today, even in the punk scene known for its passion – Wil is able to make himself and his band stand out from the crowd and make for some of the best live shows I have seen. Their sound may be changing but as long as The Smith Street Band can hold onto this passion and continue to write lyrics as strong as they do, they’ll be just fine. My heart still lies with No One Gets Lost Anymore, and I think when it comes to The Smith Street Band records that will always be my favourite, but I can see where the band is heading and it is exciting for everyone involved; the band, Poison City, the existing fans, and the thousands of people who are going to fall in love with the band over the coming years.


Matt Power
24 June 2015

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The Smith Street Band Throw Me In The River

Artist The Smith Street Band
Album Throw Me In The River
Released 31 Oct 2014
Label Poison City Records
Tracks 11
Run Time 46 minutes
Genre Punk

The Smith Street Band Throw Me In The River