The Smithereens

Enigma / Capitol Records, 1989


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Long-time readers of "The Daily Vault" know I often wax nostalgic about the times I discovered some bands, most often in my time in radio, a period of time I call Alcatraz without the guards. The baskets of mail that arrived every day each held some new treasure that would be ambrosia to my ears after listening to so much other dreck.

It was that way when, in 1989, the station I worked at received the latest album at the time from The Smithereens, 11. Though the vinyl copy we received was warped to the point of it being unplayable, the few songs I was able to listen to were absolutely incredible. Within a matter of days, I was at the local record store picking up a CD copy of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 11, and adding it to the Pierce Memorial Archives.

Pat DiNizio and crew merge the sensibility of '60s power pop with the recklessness of '80s alternative, creating one very pleasant mix. If there was an album that defined The Smithereens, 11 is the one.

The first single off the album, "A Girl Like You," is proof of the talents these four young musicians have. The staccato guitar lines of Jim Babjak, rhythmic bass lines by Mike Mesaros and the marching backbeat provided by Dennis Diken all serve as the perfect foil for DiNizio's vocal delivery. The song is an upbeat love song that seems almost impossible to get tired of hearing.

Other tracks like "Blues Before And After" and "William Wilson" occasionally take some time to really get into, but by the time you do, you've picked up on most of their nuances. But when The Smithereens were on target, they were on fire - check out "Yesterday Girl" and "Room Without A View" for proof of this.

One of the most poignant tracks on 11 is the song "Cut Flowers," a song about a lost love and the recognition - all too late - of what the storyteller wishes he had again. The surprising twist on the loss at the end of the song makes it all the more emotional.

Another proof of the power this band has is in yet another love song, "Kiss Your Tears Away." A gentle song about the desire the singer has to be with the person he loves, DiNizio and crew capture the mood and the longing so well. The only negative on this one is the final chord of the song, which to my ears doesn't resolve itself in the best way possible. However, this is nit-picking.

The Smithereens deserve much more acclaim and success than they've had in their distinguished career, and the recent side projects the members have been doing I hope isn't a sign of the band's disintegration. (I have been assured by the Webmaster of one Smithereens page that the band is still together and is planning to work together again later this year.)

Even if it is, they've at least left their legacy in ten songs - and their best album of their career - on 11.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Enigma / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.