Band – Smug Brothers
Album / Label – Disco Maroon / Gas Daddy Go Records
Rating – 4 / 5
Kyle Melton (vocals/guitar), Larry Evans (bass/vocals), Brian Baker (guitar) and Don Thrasher (drums) have hit their stride with this album, embracing the mid-fi sound they have come to be known for.
The 15 tracks on Disco Maroon are packed into a mere 31 minutes of sonic smugness. Long-time fans will bask in the more polished sound of this album, while first-time listeners will find this a great starter album into the band’s catalog.
The album kicks off with the sinister sounds of It’s Official Everywhere. Deep and booming, it has an almost droning tone that puts you squarely in the band’s crosshairs.
Thrasher and Evans set the pace of Concentration Lawns, their drum and bass tone meshing perfectly with the jangly sounds of Melton and Baker’s guitars. It’s gets cerebral when Melton cries “Tell me what you were thinking…”
The most radio-friendly track on the album comes next, as My Little Crowd Pleaser takes you on a wonderful, sunny journey. You can’t help but start tapping your toes in time with the happy-go-lucky rhythm. Baker adds understated flourishes that are important, yet unobtrusive.
Observatory Lanterns begins with just Melton’s voice and an acoustic guitar. It has a polished elegance in its simple beauty. Merely sixty-five seconds in length, this is quite possibly my favorite song on the album. Other bands could only hope to write something this poignant.
Evans’ bass booms deeply to open Smokefather. With tinges of the band’s lo-fi origins, the melody transitions from serenity to an almost jarring stab of the guitars. And yet, it works.
The distorted guitar fuzz of A Sea by Jupiter is accentuated with vocals that make you feel as if they were recorded underwater on our solar system’s largest planet. Somewhat surprisingly, the melancholy styling is very aurally pleasing.
Although upbeat with its pace, Melton’s melancholy cry of “How did I ask you to just hang up?” on Hang Up makes the lyrical sadness feel warm and inviting.
One Pass at a Time is punctuated by Thrasher filling small gaps between the changing rhythms of the song with staccato quickness. Its succinctness is reminiscent of the “Dayton” sound made famous by Guided By Voices. The main difference between the two bands is that Melton’s voice is more mellifluous than that of Robert Pollard’s.
Skin of The Most Perfect Cheetah evokes a feeling of summer’s end, with a dreamy quality to it as the lyrical tale unfolds. You can feel the pain of the cheetah as Melton wails “left alive…”
The band makes a brief trip down memory lane with Wish it Was June. Sounding as if it were recorded direct to four-track, you can easily imagine the guys sitting in a room to lay this down in one take.
The album returns to the present day with Truly Awake is a Mistake, with its driving beat increasing in pace as the song fades out. The mix on this track is truly a work of beauty, as each bandmember is audible in a way that many bands are not. For those of you that still listen to music with headphones, this is the track for that.
The Flying City is a track that has an old-time, “we’re going to the high school dance” feel to it. The guitars have a slightly “warbly” sound to them that evokes the shyness of teenagers too afraid to ask each other to dance. The vocal layering is a bit back in the mix, adding to overall feeling of sheepishness.
The echo-effect placed on Melton’s vocals in Karate Walker make the track sound as if he’s singing to you from down the hallway. The spacey guitar fills give it a very dreamlike quality that is once again slightly melancholy in nature.
Closing out the album, Amplifying Sigh bridges the gap from the band’s lo-fi genesis to the self-described mid-fi pasture they find themselves grazing on today. As Melton serenades the listener with “I never said you were a daydream”, the band floats along with a happy, peaceful pace. As we all do eventually, the sound fades out and is gone.
Disco Maroon is the band’s most mature effort to date. Which is ironic, given that all the members are not new to music and playing in a band(s). Recording the album at Micah Carli’s “Popside” studio assuredly adds to the audible polish of the band’s sound. And yet, it doesn’t detract from the four-track sound of their roots.
It’s a solid album and fits very nicely into the progression of their catalog, becoming the next logical step for Smug Brothers.
Smug Brothers – My Little Crowd Pleaser