Used To Yesterday

Smokescreens

Slumberland, 2018

http://smokescreensla.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/25/2018

Anyone looking for an updated take on a familiar alt-rock sound would do well to check out Smokescreens’ second album, which improves a bit on their first but makes no move toward the mainstream.

On first listen, Used To Yesterday sounds like a lost jangle-pop album of the ‘80s, the kind that early R.E.M., Siouxsie & The Banshees, and so forth used to record, but with less emphasis on punk and mood and more on pop melody. This approach means the band doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but they seem not only aware of this but happy to revel on a limited space that still has plenty of room for exploration.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album has strains of power pop all over it, chiming guitars, and male/female vocals and that wistful summer feeling that this genre does well, plus an indie rock sensibility that remains appealing no matter the decade. The disc zips by in 10 songs and half an hour, with one obscure cover of “Steel Blue Skies” from Wasp Factory (one of those ‘80s jangle-pop bands that informs so much of the sound here) and nine originals that traffic in melody and indie-guitar-rock tropes. The good kind of tropes, though.

Every so often, older influences will seep through – the Velvet Underground here, the Beatles’ Help! on some of the ringing guitar lines and harmonies (like standout track “It’s Not Right”) there, and the overall feeling of inviting warmth instead of the coolness that is so typical of indie rock of this stripe. And on the country rock of “Fool Me” and the sweep of “Falling Down,” which packs a lot into three minutes, Smokescreens reveal their songwriting abilities and a way forward should they decide to expand their sonic palette.

Note that all of those above standouts are in the second half of the disc, so it takes a few songs to get there, but on a summer day it won’t really matter. It’s pretty much of a piece anyway, a slice of life that Used to Yesterday nonchalantly captures, and it’s a fine, if mostly uneventful, record.

Rating: B-

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