The Smith Street Band
Don't Fuck With Our Dreams
It's unfortunate that this EP's two opening tracks — Don't Fuck With Our Dreams and Ducks Fly Together — have been apportioned by the tiny segregating pause Steve Jobs insists on including between digital files in order to redefine them as individual, purchasable products. The pair work better as a single composition, and not merely to accommodate the seamless journey of audible sound to ear canals, but also because together they economically encapsulate everything that's so wonderful about The Smith Street Band at the present moment.
Don't Fuck With Our Dreams is both a documentation of the band's relationship with their touring schedule, as well as an outwardly projected invitation for an all-in-together group hug, specifically aimed at Elvis fanatics who annually waste a weekend pilgriming down to Parkes when they could have a much better time simply pulling up a stool and downing a shoe full of beer at the Brisbane Hotel, Hobart. Ducks Fly Together also documents life away from the comforts of a familiar habitat. However, it takes a far more personal, inwardly focused perspective, with lyricist Wil Wagner weaving a tale of separation into one of hopeful flickers, measuring the quality of euphoric micro moments against an infinity of contentment.
Following this duality of perspective, the pursuing pair of tracks also tackle a solitary idea from different, isolated viewpoints. Bigger Than Us finds Wagner diving head first (literally) into the romanticism associated with hope, forming an argument that it's worth risking everything even for a remote chance of being part of something truly remarkable. Kids continues the idea of searching for significance, yet that spark of optimism now is burdened by an unshakable element of self-doubt. Naturally, not far behind are definitions of death as an inevitable constant and uselessness as a natural conclusion. Yet, from all that — determination. Our lyrical leader guides us through, therapeutically willing us back to confident strides via the notion that we're not alone. The unpaired closer, Self Control, doesn't quite match up to it's predecessors, in both the level of self-created complexity sought by myself or the unwavered, air-fisting revelry. Yet it's a welcoming sombre affair, acting as an ideal comedown leveller to tidy out the release.
Musically, this EP offers a much narrower spectrum than last year's masterpiece, Sunshine & Technology. But lyrically, it's beautifully convoluted, with Wagner's punctuated, quotable snippets colliding into each other, struggling to neatly arrange themselves amidst the abundance of competing thoughts and ideas. This expanded lyrical intricacy also, indadvertedly, hints at a future issue with The Smith Street Band, whereby the ever-increasing void between the volume of valuable content created by the two separate entities — the words and the music — becomes distractingly apparent. Even with Wagner's own solo work picking up the occasional piece of discarded literature, there seems to be too much just naturally flowing from his brain to his notebook at the present moment. And with a seemingly endless tour itinerary ahead of them — with more drinks, more friends and more stories — it's doubtful this asymmetry will become any more balanced in the near future.
Yet, of course, this is a bloody good "problem" to have. Not just for those of us who prefer a clever quip over a quick-fire riff, but also because it communicates a genuine sense of back-to-basics rock purity. Here's a band freely doing what they do — creating. In their own space. On their own schedule. Releasing an EP not merely to maintain a sense of relevance, but because thoughts had been articulated, words had been written, music had been arranged around those verses and songs were ready to perform. People will need to know the words, thus some form of pre-show recorded output is vital. And as simplistic and obvious as that whole notion seems — it's also completely liberating.