Title: Don't Waste Your Anger
Artist: The Smith Street Band
Label: Pool House Records
Released: 17 April 2020
THE SMITH STREET BAND
DON'T WASTE YOUR ANGER
“Sobriety's good but so is being high
Society's fine with the passage of time
Try slow it down so I can unwind
Tragedy's comedy if you can get through it”
Wil Wagner is a great writer. If you give a listen to The Smith Street Band’s last full-length album “More Scared of You Than You Are of Me” back in 2017, you can hear the clear talent behind his songwriting. Lyrically speaking, “More Scared of You” is extremely economic; nothing feels redundant or overlong. And with the help of Jeff Rosenstock’s production, it’s also insanely tight and clean sounding. While their new record “Don’t Waste Your Anger” does have some really great moments, I feel it’s slightly lacking in comparison when it comes to Wagner’s ability to both make a concise and musically satisfying project.
It’s not that “Don’t Waste Your Anger” feels too long-winded, but instead the album doesn’t seem quite as refined as some of the band’s previous work. And it’s almost hard to put a finger on what doesn’t quite work as well here. Some of the lyrics aren’t as powerful, but then again there are other moments that are extremely effective and profound. Wagner has the capability to evoke some extremely strong emotions and imagery through his lyrics, and when he manages to do so, “Don’t Waste Your Anger” really shines. ‘Big Smoke’ is a good example of this, as he describes his increasing dependence on his relationship as his mental health declines.
“Want to live in a beautiful world
And I don’t know how I’ll do it without
I don’t know how I’ll do it without you
When there’s a deep and violent sadness
That grows in me as I get old
A kind of concentrated madness”
And while there are a few moments that I found to be a little lyrically underwhelming, on the whole Wagner still provides relatively consistent, quality songwriting throughout. The opening three tracks in particular are all excellent. They’re dynamic, well written, and in particular ‘I Still Dream About You’ provides one of the most cathartic moments on the album with its powerful, raw performance from Wagner in its final chorus. However, the main problem with “Don’t Waste Your Anger” isn’t really anything to do with its lyrics, but more an issue of structure and consistency.
As I said before, the first three songs on this album are excellent, and an extremely promising introduction to what is unfortunately a relatively inconsistent collection of tracks. After ‘I Still Dream About You’ finishes, ‘Dirty Water’ shifts the tone down a notch. And although a change of pace is welcome to create some variety in an album, Wil really doesn’t deliver a great vocal performance in this track. The chorus on the song is quite weak too, with one of the least memorable refrains on the album. Together this just makes for an extremely tedious listen. After such a great start, ‘Dirty Water’ feels like spraining your ankle 20 metres into a 100-metre sprint.
Luckily, “Don’t Waste Your Anger” does manage to regain some momentum after this trip-up, however it never really reaches the potential that it should. ‘The End of the World’ is a pretty decent track; Wil redeems himself vocally from the previous song, however it’s one of the lower points from a lyrical stand-point, using a lot of repetition to emphasize a fairly mediocre refrain. ‘Losing It’ is has an absolutely incredible build-up, but it doesn’t quite manage to stick the landing as well as it should. It’s a shame it wasn’t given more time to develop, however it still manages to be one of the album’s main highlights.
“I'll make mistakes, I'll make mistakes
And I won't give you the right answers
And you will give me second chances
Even when I don't deserve it”
‘It’s OK’ is a really great acoustic song which discusses some of Wil’s anxieties involving romantic relationships and his struggles to balance them against his difficulties with mental health. This is the subject matter upon which most of the album is based, but I think this song does one of the best jobs of expressing Wil’s constant internalised angst. Following this, the album comes to a close with its title track. It’s a really solid finish, aside from a pretty unnecessary raw live recording of the chorus which is shoved at the end of it. However, on the whole it’s upbeat, catchy and one of the more notable tracks on the album.
“Don’t Waste Your Anger” is an album that I think could have been excellent. It’s bookended by a great stretch of tracks at the beginning as well as a really good conclusion, however is unfortunately let down by a disappointing string of songs in the middle. Wil Wagner is an extremely talented songwriter who has the capabilities to create outstanding music, and I feel that if some of these were a little more fleshed out “Don’t Waste Your Anger” could have been an amazing album. But either way, I’m excited to hear what The Smith Street Band come out with next. I just hope that next time they manage to create something a little more refined.
“I let you down
In love for now
Hard to admit
I'm losing it, I'm losing it”
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 04/07/20