On Second Thought: The Smithereens – 11 (1989)

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Formed in 1980, the Smithereens are still going strong today. Sticking to their principals, the New Jersey band, in all these years, has never once compromised their ideals and bowed down to trends.

Pop rock purists through and through, which is not an easy title to maintain in an age where glitz, gloss and glamour is far too often mistaken for success rather than creative integrity, the Smithereens thankfully have a large and loyal audience receptive to their vision.

By the time the band’s third full-length album, 11 (Capitol Records) was released, they had already gripped the ears and hearts of the public with super snappy tunes such as “Strangers When We Meet,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Green Thoughts,” “Only A Memory” and “House We Used To Live In.” So at this point, new music from the Smithereens was cause for a celebration, and 11 testified to be yet another outstanding effort.

A Top 40 hit single, “A Girl Like You” crunches to a surefooted and sturdy groove, while “Blues Before & After” is built upon a similar structure of hard-edged guitar pop persuasions. Curtains of clingy choruses, bolstered by bold and brash breaks further line these tracks. Striking a healthy balance between power and melodic awareness, “A Girl Like You” and “Blues Before & After” ripple and rock with determination.

Basking in a glow of springy rhythms and sunny vocals, the merry sound of “Yesterday Girl” belies the kiss-off message the song provides, the moody “Blue Period” carries a baroque feel, and an ode to Buddy Holly’s widow, “Maria Elena,” with its sweet and sparkly figures, duly lends a tip of the spectacles to the dearly departed icon.

Assembled of concrete arrangements, haystacks of penetrating hooks and in the pocket musicianship, 11 is a stone cold pop rock classic. The Smithereens have always proudly addressed their influences, particularly the Beach Boys, the Kinks, the Beatles and the Who, and although strains of these artists arise in the band’s material, they expertly remodel and retool their inspirations, resulting in a contemporary fit.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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