Smithereens – 2011 (album review)

Smithereens – 2011 (E1 Entertainment) It’s been twelve years since the Smithereens recorded an album of original material.  After listening to their new record, 2011, it was well worth the wait.  Most musicians spend their early years studying their heroes.  But, once they’re established, few bands ever go back for more education.  The Smithereens have spent the last few years immersed in the music that got them started in the first place —

beginning with their two Beatles tributes (Meet the Smithereens and B-sides the Beatles), and then the Who (the Smithereens Play Tommy).  All this delving into the past has rejuvenated the band, producing their best album in years.  The guitar riffs are great, and singer Pat Dizinio’s voice still has that deep resonating quality that was a signature of their earlier albums.  The biggest beneficiary of this roots revivalism seems to be drummer Dennis Diken.  Perhaps having to play Keith Moon riffs every night sparked something – his drumming is tight, with some really tasty fills.

As in all good Smithereens albums, there are echoes of the past.  The leadoff single, “Sorry,” is a slice of Brit Invasion-infused power chords, while “One Look at You” has a lead riff not unlike “Day Tripper,” “All the Same” chugs along with a shuffle beat reminiscent of “Eight Days a Week,” while the closing track, “What Went Wrong” features a furious middle section that recalls “My Generation.”  There’s a nice mix of rockers and slow numbers, and some of the tracks, like the dark “Rings on Her Fingers,” stand up to their best work.  While most albums lose steam somewhere in the second half, some of 2011’s finest moments come in the latter portion.  “Turn it Around” starts with a riff straight out of Green Thoughts, then morphs into a melodic rocker with Beach Boys harmonies.

They’ve reenlisted the help of producer Don Dixon, who helmed their first two albums, as well as A Date with the Smithereens.  His production isn’t so much retro as it just sounds right. This is the best collection of Smithereens tracks since 1991’s Blow Up.  With such a lapse in original material, it makes sense for the band to cling to something familiar; in this case they invoke their biggest charting album, 11.  The 2011 cover art is very similar.  Of course, by making that comparison, this raises expectations.  Luckily, the album doesn’t disappoint.  Here’s hoping the next new record doesn’t take so long.  –Tony Peters