The Smithereens

God Save the Smithereens

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After two decades, the Smithereens were no longer in step with the times and they no longer cared -- they do what they do because they love it, not because it's fashionable. They were at that point with 1994's A Date With the Smithereens, but that record was hurt by a weird undercurrent of bitterness and Pat DiNizio's songwriting slump. Wisely, the group decided to take a break after that album. The extended five-year hiatus recharged the group, if God Save is any indication. Not that the record is a masterpiece, but it is a good journeyman record that plays up their strengths quite nicely. There's a little bit of everything that the Smithereens do on the record -- jangly pop ("She's Got a Way"), doomy rock ("The Last Good Time"), melancholy ballads, crunching riffs, and even a re-working of "Gloomy Sunday," reminiscent of DiNizio's moody solo effort. The Kinks allusion in the title is appropriate, since the Smithereens are also pop traditionalists whose consistency is only appreciated by a selective, discerning audience. Unlike Ray Davies, no one in the band really seems to care about the hits drying up -- there's joy within their songcraft and their performances, they like the act of making music itself. Admittedly, God Save may not be as immediate or memorable as their best albums from the late '80s, but there are no weak moments on the record. Every song is well-crafted and delivered with conviction -- the very things that made the Smithereens a beloved cult band. God Save the Smithereens may not play to the wide audience that loved "A Girl Like You," but that cult will certainly be pleased by this strong comeback.

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