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Chicago trio turn in an
indie-glam rock gem

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
(Fat Possum Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 15, 2011
Smith Westerns

Review by Tony Bonyata

Judging from their name you might think that the Smith Westerns would have an Americana swagger to their music, but they really have nothing in common with roots or alt-country music. While the Chicago trio's 2009 self-titled debut was a lo-fi treat that mined through Nuggets-era garage rock as well as the back-catalogs of The Beatles and T. Rex, their recently released follow-up, Dye It Blonde, is a sleeker and more direct outing that should appeal to an even broader audience.

While still leaning heavily towards the '70s glam-rock of Marc Bolan and T. Rex on these catchy guitar-driven numbers, they've cleaned-up some of the grittier garage sounds of their past in favor of a well-produced collection of muscular pop rock that's steeped in reverb and moxie. Thankfully, though, they've haven't lost their knack for crafting unforgettable melodies, big hooks and fuzzy guitar riffs that would make Ziggy Stardust envious.

The album opens with the sparkling pop of "Weekend" and continues with one catchy track after another that pays homage to some of the best rock to emerge from the early '70s. For the most part these songs are upbeat and dance-worthy, such as "End of the Night," "Imagine Pt. 3" and "Fallen In Love," but there are also a couple of slower tracks that slip into a sensual groove that bridges the sexiness of Bolan's "Ballrooms of Mars" with the early '90s Britpop sounds of Suede, most notably on the numbers "Smile" and "All Die Young."

The album ends with the majestic pop of the title track, which, with its hazy guitar hooks and frontman Cullen Omori's smoky, laid-back vocal delivery, neatly sums up this sophomore effort from these modern day 'electric warriors.'

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