Smitty the Band: “The World I See” Review

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Smitty the Band
The World I

It is unfair to list the bands from which another band draws their inspiration and by whom they are influenced. The problem with doing this is that fans seeking new music will invariably be disappointed because no band sounds precisely like their influences and it’s unfair to said band to paint their music with such a broad stroke. In other words: listing influences are akin to labeling and it is a slippery slope. Fortunately, Smitty the Band presents no such conundrum because their album, The World I See, is wholly unlike anything else you have heard. While savvy fans will be able to cite influences, one will see just how cumbersome any comparison would be because any allusion would be accented with the word ‘but…’

The World I See is all over the place in the best kind of way. Forgive the cliché, but each track is different enough from the previous to keep the album interesting, yet there are several notable elements which make the sound unique to the band.

Melodically, it is very difficult to predict what the band is going to do from track to track (Author’s note: if you want to have real fun, try playing guess the time signature) and that is a good thing because listeners are almost forced to replay the album three or four times simply to get a handle on what they’ve just heard. The elements which sustain the quirky distinctiveness are two-fold. Matthew Mackle’s vocals are consistent and definitive, and though his bass lines vary from funky to darkly melodic, they always provide a solid rhythm on which the songs are built. The second defining characteristic are Paul Pino’s frenetic drum beats, which lay nicely with Mackle’s constructed rhythms. Brian Liebman’s guitar is the x-factor of this record, which takes it from good to great. Liebman drives each song forward like a turbo boost that flavors each track differently.

To that end, the album opens with a punk-sounding track called “The Tide” that is steered by Liebman’s punk-rock guitar progression which becomes something different by the second track, “The Chicken,” though not a complete departure – there are certain punky elements but those are overshadowed by a far more progressive rock feel. Further evolving by “The World I See,” “Reaction,” and “Rubber Man” fit together nicely: all three tracks feature really funky, really kicking bass runs, diverse percussion, and some killer guitar licks. Though they seem to pull back slightly – hinting at what’s to come? – by “Scrambled,” tracks 3-6 are a solid “heart of the order” a la Ramirez, Gonzalez, Ethier. You can win a pennant with that.

The album takes a hard left turn with “Hero,” which is easily the best track on the album. The instrumental track opens with another funky bass run, distorted guitars, a slower time signature than previously heard, and (are you ready for this?) a killer viola part. The viola is featured prominently and the guitar, bass, and percussion accompany it absolutely brilliantly. This is the type of track that really defies sweeping categorization because there are progressive, funk, and psychedelic qualities throughout the song. The combination is beautifully arranged and is really quite breathtaking at parts. It is loose enough to be a jam track but carefully arranged enough to truly show off the high level of musicianship Smitty possesses.

“Airplanes,” is a really pretty come-down from the gorgeous sonic chaos of “Hero.” It takes balls to confidently put a piano track in the album and, at first, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Taken alone, it’s some really beautiful playing. Within the context of the latter part of the album, it’s a smart transition to the more vocally driven “Mercury” and it sets up the groovier part of the album as “Tomahawk,” “The Golden Sunrise,” and “Turbulence” are all very harmonious, softer-edged at times, and smoother.

When taken from start to finish, the album really presents a fairly congruous bell-curve. It climbs and lets you down softly but not too softly. The elements are all here: smart production, experienced arrangements, and (most importantly) next-level musicianship. Effects and mixing are art forms in and of themselves and it takes a very seasoned understanding of all the sonic elements to achieve this sort of end result but the level of playing cannot be understated. Production is still back-end stuff in spite of the rise in popularity of over-produced garbage. Talent – real musical talent – should still drive the boat, and all three of these guys have it.

Not every coach can take gold in spite of having a dream team and not every good trio can produce a solid album without a strong sense of artistic direction. Having three guys who can play the living hell out of their instruments is 90 percent of the magic here, the other 10 percent is the three of them cohesively finding a groove together and moving in the same direction. Nothing seems out of place because the agenda is the same. There is nothing worse than a good band making a bad album and nothing better than a good band making a great album.

Here we have the latter.

The World I See is a great album. Smitty the Band is a good band that can easily become great.  All the elements are here.

For more information and to give them a listen, visit Smitty’s website HERE.

 

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Matt Forster

Originally from Miami, FL, Matt graduated with a B.A. in History from Randolph-Macon College in 2004. He is the author of Perfect Dark, a musician, and an all-around strange person. He resides in Asheville, NC with his wife and two dogs. Follow him @Dalton_Forster

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