KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – THE SMITHEREENS “ESPECIALLY FOR YOU”

I’ve already discussed the debut album from New Jersey’s The Smithereens twice, first in the Great Out Of The Gate series in 2015 and then the following year in the Thirty Year Thursday series about my favorite albums from 1986. There’s nothing else to say about this brilliant record so see below for my previous comments. The only update, unfortunately, was the death of lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Pat DiNizio in 2017 at the age of 62. The three surviving band members have carried on with guest vocalists Robin Wilson (of Gin Blossoms) and Marshall Crenshaw, keeping DiNizio’s songs alive, but no one could ever replace his distinctive vocals.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 2:

New Jersey’s The Smithereens had been around since 1980, releasing a couple of independent EP’s, but their first full-length album is where the story officially began for anyone beyond their local scene. When the bass-driven single “Blood And Roses” hit the airwaves, it fit in perfectly with both classic rock & current music. Here was a band steeped in ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks and The Hollies, but in lead vocalist/songwriter Pat DiNizio they had a unique talent who used those artists as inspiration for songs that sounded like no one other than The Smithereens. His bandmates (lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken) were deceptively sophisticated, providing clever arrangements to seemingly straight-ahead songs like “Time And Time Again,” “Strangers When We Meet” and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep.” As good as their rockers are, it’s the subtler tracks that make Especially For You so special. Suzanne Vega adds sweet harmonies to the lovely “In A Lonely Place,” and the acoustic break-up song “Cigarette” is an accordion-accented delight. My college cover band played a few Smithereens songs which were always well-received, and since I went to school in New Jersey I’ve always felt a close connection to their music. They went on to release more great records but Especially For You is probably their most diverse collection of songs and it holds up extremely well nearly 3 decades later.

 

From THIRTY YEAR THURSDAY (in July 2016):

There are plenty of killer songs in addition to those mentioned above, like “Listen To Me Girl” with its insistent midtempo groove, the bouncy “Crazy Mixed-Up Kid” and brooding album closer “Alone At Midnight.” Throughout it all there are jangly chords & killer riffs from Babjak, the Ringo-meets-Keith Moon drumming of Diken, Mesaros playing the exact groove that each song needs (a bigger compliment than it sounds) and DiNizio’s plaintive-yet-commanding voice. Don Dixon, who’s an incredibly talented musician in his own right but made his name as co-producer of REM’s first two albums, helped them deliver a radio-friendly collection of songs that straddles the line between retro & modern without a hint of the sonic overkill that was prevalent at the time. Somehow it still sounds just as fresh (to my ears, at least) 30 years after it was released.

 

I’ve never met a rock music fan who didn’t like The Smithereens, so even though they don’t get written up in music publications like many of their contemporaries, their songs have stood the test of time, and they will likely continue to sound timeless to future generations. I look forward to hearing from other fans, whether you’ve been listening since the ’80s or just recently discovered them.

12 comments on “Satur-debut – THE SMITHEREENS “ESPECIALLY FOR YOU”

  1. Bill P
    January 18, 2020

    I only knew a few songs from the Smithereens, most notably “Blood and Roses.” I thought the track and the production was very typical from the time period and it almost reminds me of the mid-80s Moody Blues (i.e. Wildest Dreams or Other Side of Life) without the synth. Easy to see how they could fit into that college rock genre with other bands like the Church, the Replacements, & the Violent Femmes. Big jangly guitar sound, bass forward parts, and straight up rockers. What’s not to like? Easy to see those 50s/60s influences similar to Marshall Crenshaw. Interesting that they had the Gin Blossoms singer guest with them as I can hear a lot of similarities between the 2 bands.

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    • It’s interesting that you considered the Smithereens songs you’ve heard to be typical ’80s-sounding, as I think one of their charms is that their music (especially this album) sounds timeless. There might be some gated drum sounds here & there but without drum machines & synths it doesn’t scream “80s” to me.

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      • Bill P
        January 19, 2020

        To be clear, my comment was never meant to be pejorative or to insinuate that the music sounded dated. However, it does sound of its time. When you think of bands like Let’s Active, the Rembrandts, and the others I mentioned above, they all had that jangly, Rickenbacker type sound. That’s where they show their influences (Beatles, Byrds, etc) as so many bands did at that time. However, the music does not sound anything like it came from the 60s or 70s. I know of no band from that earlier era that sounded like this.

        I would happily include them in a playlist with the Beatles or Byrds or something more modern like the Gin Blossoms and it wouldn’t be jarring but it is a bit like when I put “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk on my Disco playlist. It fits stylistically in the genre but the sonic quality of the recording added to the writing itself separates it from its predecessors. You don’t hear music like this on the radio any more and that is why it reminds me so much of those college rock bands of the mid/late 80s-early 90s. By the 2000s, the garage rock revival took over and the big, jangly guitar sound went with it.

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      • Great points, Bill. I see exactly what you mean about how The Smithereens fit in with that group of bands. Most of the time when people talk about ’80s music it’s that over-produced synth-heavy huge electronic drum sound, but of course plenty of artists stuck to their guns and it’s their music that often sounds the least dated.

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  2. 80smetalman
    January 18, 2020

    I never listened to them at all but now I think I should.

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  3. christiansmusicmusings
    January 18, 2020

    Well, as far as I’m concerned, you hit the nail on the head with this one! While I had heard of The Smithereens before, I don’t believe I knew any of their songs. This album surely sounds great.

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    • I’m surprised that you weren’t familiar with any of their songs, Christian. They got a lot of airplay throughout the second half of the ’80s & into the ’90s. For a time you couldn’t go a day without hearing “Blood & Roses,” which still kicks ass all these years later. I think you would find a lot to love on their first three albums at least.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christiansmusicmusings
        January 19, 2020

        I suppose part of my lame excuse is that I was still living in Germany at the time and don’t recall hearing them on the radio there. In any case, it definitely sounds like it is a gap that was finally filled!

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      • No excuses, lame or otherwise, needed. I’m just glad you like what you hear. The Smithereens don’t get a lot of airplay or press but that doesn’t diminish the quality of their music. In an alternate universe they’re megastars.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. stephen1001
    January 19, 2020

    A group I’ve seen countless times in the shops (usually the artist placed just before Johnny Marr’s old group) but never explored. Always loved Robin Wilson’s voice though!

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    • I haven’t heard Robin Wilson sing with them since he’s just been alternating live performances with Marshall Crenshaw to fill in for the late Pate DiNizio, but I always liked his voice and I’m sure he does a fine job. As for Smithereens albums, I highly recommend the first three. I know it’s unlikely they made the 1001 list but don’t let that discourage you.

      Liked by 1 person

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