Published Oct 28, 2014Wil Wagner is an ambitious dude. Through two full-lengths, two EPs and a solo album of his own over the last three years, the lead singer of Melbourne's the Smith Street Band has always wanted something more. While the four-piece's sound has evolved steadily from scrappy folk into fist-in-the-air punk rock, the one constant has been Wagner's desire for more opportunity beyond his humble Melbourne suburb beginnings. On Throw Me In The River, their first album with a proper North American release, Wagner may have finally found what he's looking for.
"All I ever wanted was something I could hold in my hands," he screams repeatedly in an Australian accent throughout the building, cinematic opener "Something I Can Hold In My Hands," and then again on the winding, five-and-a-half-minute closer "I Love Life." He's still a little too cryptic at times, but regardless, the elation Wagner's experiencing — he closes "Something I Can Hold In My Hands" by stating defiantly "And here it is" — is palpable. Gone are the childish undertones of past records; in their place, the Smith Street Band showcase a wealth of experience. "Surrey Dive" is at once penetrating and hooky.
The band often take their foot off the gas at inopportune moments, but when they fire on all cylinders they channel their punk rock forefathers Hot Water Music. The band benefit from producer Jeff Rosenstock's (Bomb The Music Industry!) work on album highlight "I Don't Wanna Die Anymore," harnessing both punchy drums and melodic, dual-guitar hooks.
Constant touring and exposure have given the Smith Street Band the perspective they've always needed. Their emotive punk rock is more precise than ever, and if life on the road can give birth to a record as invigorating as Throw Me In The River, they might not be spending too much time in Melbourne anymore. (Side One Dummy)