November 30, 2005

The Smittens "A Little Revolution"

Last year's Gentlefication Now! was a fun blast of too-sweet-to-be-forgotten bubblegum pop. The band composed fun singalong songs that made the listener smile, and their gentle charm only added to their appeal. Peppy and upbeat, the album was an addictive treat and an all-around fun listen. But times change, people change and no matter how hard you try to Peter Pan your life, maturity is inevitably always looming around the corner. The Smittens face this fact of life with joy and aplomb.

The dark shades and tones of A Little Revolution's artwork actually sets the mood. This time around, the songs are darker; and though there are a few moments of singalongness, they've eschewed much of their first album's youthful jubilation. You'll also notice that there's a bit of a difference in their singing arrangements; Max, whose Calvin Johnson-styled crooning defined their debut, isn't as prominent; he wasn't as active with the Smittens during the sessions, and is no longer with the band. Instead, most of the vocals are handled by our fave Colin Clary. His songwriting style has always been a little more personal and heartfelt, and it's obvious that his songwriting dominated the album. It's quite okay, too; the world isn't suffering from too many Colin Clary songs.

Even though the music has a newfound melancholy, there's no way the Smittens could be anything less than charming. And while "The Garden" and "My Favorite Dream" are darker than their previous fare, it's hard not to deny their catchy power. Also enjoyable is the pretty "Jeans and Mittens," the political "Stop the Bombs" and the remix fun of "Twitterpation!" My personal fave is "Party Time," which is a cover of a great song by the sorely-missed and highly underrated True Love Always. This song's fun, not only because of its meaning to me personally, but each of the Smittens takes a turn on vocals. In an odd twist, the moments that most recall their debut album feel oddly out of place; "Guess What" and "Nate is Straight" are fun, but the darker feel of their other songs makes these joyously fun moments feel slightly awkward. You know, just like being a teenager.

Given the fact that they've recently changed their lineups and are transitioning from a five-piece to a four-piece band, A Little Revolution is a really good transitional record. Sure, it might not have as many out-and-out fun singalongs as their debut, but bands must grow. For the most part, the Smittens' maturity is pretty good. Sure, the good ol' days were fun, but the band's newfound depth is really impressive, too. Not a bad sophomore record, indeed!

--Joseph Kyle

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