At some point over the past few months, The Smith Street Band’s upcoming fourth full length release became my most anticipated album of the year. I don’t remember the exact moment I fell in love with these Australian lads, but I do know that it was one of those hard and fast romances that you don’t just suddenly forget about. They went from being a weird bogan band that yelled and cursed a lot, to one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.
As I sat listening to More Scared of You Than You Are of Me for the very first time, I felt all I had hoped to feel with this new release. Everything this band does is the new best thing to come out of Australia, and this collection of raw, uninhibited emotion, is no exception to that timeless rule.
In short: I fucking love it.
Four albums in, TSSB are still that band that loves to throw around expletives in a shouty manner, but this artistic choice, combined with the kind of lyrical themes that you find yourself crying about before you’ve even consciously registered their meaning, gives you a real insight into who these four guys are. Each one of the twelve tracks acts as a window into lead singer Wil Wagner’s diary. It isn’t always pretty – in fact it often isn’t – but it is always honest, and somehow the brutal frankness of it makes you feel truly happy to be alive. While it would be easy for topics such as chronic depression, break-ups, love, and anger to come across dreary and maybe even soppy, TSSB’s relentless punk rock vibe turns these emotions into power, helping to de-stigmatise issues such as mental health illnesses and casual sex through great art and a good time.
In the few days leading up to the album’s release, we were surprised with previews of each song, along with a written explanation of a single lyric from each track: where it was written, what motivated that line, and even the difficulty with which it was written. As if lyrics such as “I’m just a pretty sad person / in a quite surreal place / and I don’t look up from my phone because I know I won’t see your face / and it’s pathetic” weren’t diaristic enough, Wil went that extra mile so that the band’s fans can know exactly who he is. As I’ve mentioned in various ramblings about TSSB before, it is always made abundantly clear that we are just as important to them as they are to us, and to put his mind out into the world in such a vulnerable way is a well-received ode to our loyalty.
ONLY 2 MORE DAYS! “IT KILLS ME TO HAVE TO BE ALIVE” 🌹 . This line, as with the rest of the song it’s from, is about how I feel when I feel really sad. It’s about the cyclical thinking of being depressed, I don’t feel loved AND I only have myself to blame. It’s also about feeling a loss of connection to Melbourne and to my community. All the songs on the record are personal but this one especially so, it was painful to sing but I’m glad it’s out there. #MORESCAREDOFYOUTHANYOUAREOFME
Sonically, The Smith Street Band’s music has always reflected the tone of the lyrics, and since thematically, this record covers an entire spectrum of emotion, so too does the music. From sad and mellow, acoustic based tracks, such as It Kills Me to Have to Be Alive and Young Once, to the furious, slightly heavier, punk inspired Suffer, we learn that there is nothing that they’re scared to try, nothing that they’re scared to say. Every note incites something, and even before I had the lyrics ingrained in my brain, each song still managed to make me feel incredible things, and as the rain hit my windscreen way too hard, my vision was further blurred by cathartic tears I couldn’t explain. As eclectic as the record is, and as rough as it often sounds, it somehow comes together flawlessly, as though tied up neatly with a metaphorical bow. Everything about it fits.
There were already a thousand reasons why you should love The Smith Street Band, and this album has given us at least a hundred more as they continue to push boundaries in terms of both sonic and lyrical content, and as they use their platform as as way of advocating for what they believe in. TSSB are musicians, yes, and fucking greats ones at that, but first and foremost they are people with something very important to say, and while we often have a tendency to dehumanise those in the spotlight, it’s hard to do so when a band exudes humanity in the way TSSB do. By donating $5 of every (sold out) pre-order bundle to Australian youth mental health foundation, Headspace, the band proved that they go beyond simply preaching, by actively and consistently advocating for the issues they broach in their music. The Smith Street Band are just good people, doing great things, making special music that ought to be appreciated by us all. I’ll be damned if I’m not still dancing around to this album when I’m 105.