You Don’t Need to See the Glam to Hear the Glitter

March 4th, 2011

Smith Westerns – Mercury Lounge – March 3, 2011

The guys in Smith Westerns can’t order a drink at Mercury Lounge, but that didn’t stop them from playing their shiny glam pop to a sold-out crowd last night. In the past couple of years the ridiculously young band has grown from a trio to a five-piece, and in the process nailed the lush, dreamy sounds of Ziggy Stardust Bowie way beyond their 20 years of age. They grew up in Chicago, not known for its glam scene. Nonetheless, the band built on the strong, albeit fuzzy, foundation of their self-titled debut release and has since delivered a fully formed and blindingly gleaming second album, Dye It Blonde. In the process, they’ve traded a lo-fi, distanced sound for lush instrumentation, without glam’s historically theatrical getup.

Stripped of the baggage of the genre, Smith Westerns capture glam rock’s original intention to break away from contemporary trends even more closely than the people who actually created it. Packing a massive number of riffs into a typically sub-three-minute song, they energetically raced through their set of tracks from their latest disc. And unlike the personas that overwhelmed the music from that era, these guys just inhabit their own naive, carefree selves—plus they have an amazing amount of talent.

Like their contemporaries Cheap Time, Smith Westerns have the charisma needed to pull off the most essential element, a larger-than-life attitude to match the epic tracks like “Smile” and their motto, “All Die Young.” Most of which comes from frontman Cullen Omori, brother to bassist Cameron, who effortlessly channels a dreamy and accessible power pop backed by impressive lead guitar from Max Kakacek. It’s all about dancing, partying, and falling in love—at any age. —Jason Dean

(Smith Westerns play The Bowery Ballroom on 4/25.)