Let me put this review in context...it's been "one of those days." Faced the end of a relationship, had a particularly rough day at work, saw several household appliances quit on me, and smashed my finger in a door. My 30th birthday is impending and I'm kind of in a weird place thinking about the significance of this. This is the kind of night when a guy needs a drink.
But this wasn't just any day, and in the back of my mind I knew it through all the various pitfalls I experienced. I knew above all else that today saw the release of yet ANOTHER new Golden Smog disc, following Another Fine Day less than a year ago. After eight years of dormancy, The Smog has treated us to a second slice of pecan pie, somewhat slimmer but no less savory. I ended this awful day by driving up the coast right after sunset to the local indie record shop where this beauty was just waiting for me. The moment "Can't Even Tie Your Own Shoes" came on the car stereo, I knew everything was gonna be just fine.
This band possesses a special magic, a kind of feel-good vibe that pervades all of their songs no matter how depressing the subject matter. Even the suicide ballad "Making Waves" on 1998's Weird Tales disc provides a warm, sympathetic delivery that is comfortable and reassuring. This magic is in full force on the new E.P.
Perhaps it's the shorter format or the fact that several of these songs are outtakes, but this disc yields a looser feel than "Another Fine Day," hearkening back to their earlier sound while preserving some of the band's nascent post-Tweedy-power-pop influences. The Bowie and Dinosaur Jr. covers, for example, wouldn't sound so out of place among the other covers on the 1989 debut "On Golden Smog" despite the slightly more polished production here. The strummy, acoustic "Scotch on Ice," a tongue-in-cheek ballad that may or may not be about a blow-up doll (!!!) reminds me of the jokey "He's a Dick" from 1995's Down By The Old Mainstream. The humor is welcome. Elsewhere the band members contribute some A-list material, that being "Without a Struggle," "You Can't Even Tie Your Own Shoes," and "Look at You Now." These songs are loose, relaxed and playful, pure pop craftsmanship presented with an easy grace. Just check out the short carnival segment at the end of "Look at You Now" for proof. The final track is just a snippet, a 50-second tune reminiscent of the Violent Femmes with a bunch of noise tacked on about one minute after the mini-song ends. These guys sound like they're having a blast, which is what The Smog is really all about.
The five stars here are really for how this music makes me feel, how the sound of a group of guys getting together to have some fun playing tunes can make me forget my problems if even just for a short time. This music is like therapy. Apparently, the band members feel the same way when it comes to playing it (just read some interviews with the band and you will see what I mean). It's music to enjoy, to get you through it all without having to take that drink or worse. It'll put a smile on your face. And after all, isn't that what music should be about?
Let's all take a deep breath, we're gonna be just fine.