ALBUM REVIEW: The Smith Street Band - Throw Me In The River

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Smith Street Band - Throw Me In The River

Review by Matt Doria [twitter: @DEEninetysix ]

There’s something about Wil Wagner’s voice that truly mesmerizes me. He doesn’t sound like your average vocalist; there’s no fake American accent, no angelic manipulation... He doesn’t exactly sound like the singing type X Factor judges would take too kindly to, so to speak. Wagner just sounds like a regular punter who grabbed the mic and started to scream sweet nothings, and everyone just let him roll with it. And honestly, it’s exactly that, that raw and powerful honesty in his voice, that makes him sound so tantalizing. Following on from 2013’s acclaimed ‘Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams’ EP, Wagner and the rest of the boys in The Smith Street Band are finally back with their third full-length effort, the poetically bittersweet ‘Throw Me In The River’.

As is my main point of complaint with most albums of late (sidenote: that totally rhymed!), ‘Throw Me In The River’ is a touch monotonous. At times, I couldn’t tell whether a new song had started, or if there was a random gap of silence in the middle of the previous track. With most records, I’d be using this as a reason to criticise the artist; nobody wants to listen to the same song ten times, and some diversity can really liven up an otherwise boring record. However, I can’t help but make an exception for this album. What Wagner and co. do, they do perfectly - there’s no real need to shift your style from song to song, when the formula you have works as well as it does here. So while there isn’t much individuality between each of the songs on ‘Throw Me In The River’, the record as a whole is filled with enough character and passion to make it its own little bubble of personality.

Lyrically speaking, ‘Throw Me In The River’ is a masterpiece. Wagner’s storytelling is stalwart yet straightforward, painting a vivid picture in the listener’s mind with every word that comes from his bearded beer door. Each song on the record is its own little apologue with Wagner its narrator; he recounts stories from his past sometimes dark, sometimes bright, always personal and always deep. His way with words is phenomenal. He’s abundantly raw, he’s strikingly honest, and he doesn’t beat around the bush with useless metaphors or fruitless characters. Everything is spoken from his own point of view, but in a way with which, when I was listening to his stories, I felt like I was a part of them. You become the protagonist in this melancholic chassis of lost love and misspoken memories.

Stylistically, I’m not too sure where ‘Throw Me In The River’ stands. Wagner wears his heart on his sleeve with his melodic choruses, but tears it to pieces with his poetic verses. It’s an odd middle ground between spoken-word and singing, but it works. Think of it like a salted caramel - there’s that indescribably decadent contrast between the sweetness and the saltiness; that’s what ‘Throw Me In The River’ is like. I’m going to use that same analogy for the musical element of the record as well, because some elements of the record are slow and progressive, while others are fast and bombastic. It’s simultaneously minimalistic and massive; the contrast works exceptionally well across all eleven tracks, especially the closing few. It’s an unbalanced record, in a way which makes it entirely balanced.

I’m not making all too much sense at this point, but... Run with me here.

To summarize, ‘Throw Me In The River’ is an album you really need to listen to in order to understand. I could go on for days about Wagner’s passionate integrity and his backing band’s vigorous fervor, and I could go on for weeks about salted caramel, but all in all, there’s no way to effectively grasp the record’s concept without laying your ears on it for yourself. Of all the things that make ‘Throw Me In The River’ so great, it’s the way closing track ‘I Love Life’ wraps things up with an allusion to ‘Something I Can Hold In My Hands’, that really adds that extra little dimension to the record. There’s good reason for why The Smith Street Band are blowing up right now, and ‘Throw Me In The River’ is the only argument one needs to prove why that’s so.

Rating: 4-and-a-half things we can’t explain out of 5.

Trophy Tunes: ‘Something I Can Hold In My Hands’ / ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’ / ‘I Love Life’

You can grab the album now on Itunes or at your local JB hi-fi NOW ! 

Also be sure to check them out on their National Tour hitting town soon !