Melbourne based folk-punk group The Smith Street Band are currently one of Australia’s busiest and most prominent bands, and the recent release of their third full length album Throw Me in the River shows that they don’t have any intentions of slowing down.
The album starts with a slow build-up, Wil Wagner’s Australian accent made instantly recognisable in the intro of ‘Something I Can Hold in My Hands’ through quiet spoken lyrics before the drums kick in and the guitar loudens. The tone of the release is instantly set as one of triumph through their trademark liveliness and lyrics such as “For the first time, I’m smiling when I wake” which contrasts with the negativity and despair of a lot of their previous tracks. There is a seamless transition into the second song, ‘Surrender’, one of the two singles released prior to the album itself. Even the name of this song continues the idea of triumph, and the directness of the lyrics is typical of Wagner’s style and engages with the listener, one of TSSB’s best traits. ‘Surrender’ was definitely a good choice for a single because it encapsulates the vibes of the album as a whole and showed that thought their style has changed slightly (as can be expected), it was not for the worse and their uplifting and exciting sound has remained, which holds true for the whole release.
Track three, ‘Surrey Dive’ begins with a catchy clean guitar riff that is repeated throughout the song, an addition to their style of playing that hasn’t really featured on any of their other releases. ‘Calgary Girls’ continues to build on the increasing emotion of the release, with calmer, twinkly instrumentals, less shouty vocals and the use of a piano towards the end of the song. Despite a lot of positive feedback, I would say this song is the low point of the album as it becomes slightly repetitive and lacks the energy of their better tracks. The album picks back up for ‘East London Summer’, a track name seemingly inspired by lyrics from a song by London pop-punk band Apologies, I Have None, but then slows back down for ‘The Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian’; overall the album has an effective and equal balance between upbeat and chilled out tracks, something that has slowly been perfected over TSSB’s many releases.
The remainder of the album continues this up and down liveliness and effectively guides the listening further away from what could be called their typical sound, veering towards a variety of sounds, melodies and instrumental styles marginally different from what they’ve done before. This is especially apparent in the last song, ‘I Love Life’, which features an over two minutes long instrumental midway through, something that doesn’t come across as a strong point of the album.
Other than the occasional cleaner guitar riffs and refined sound, Throw Me in the River isn’t much different from The Smith Street Band’s other releases, however this definitely is not a bad thing; their unique sound and sincere lyrics are enough to get anyone on their feet and shouting along at a show. The experiences from their multiple tours across the world have clearly had an influence on lyrical content, but the band have simultaneously managed to keep all their songs personally engaging and close to home, and the honesty of Wagner’s lyrics, something typical of the folk punk-genre, is truly admirable.