Smokers Die Younger – Smokers Die Younger
“These abject terrors and complexities / may do for you, but they will not for me / take your hands from my throat / Put them back on the wheel / and drive” – Bad Driving Too, Smokers Die Younger
The skinny: The first album was Jason, this one is Patrick Bateman.
The review proper: Let me explain that remark I just made… by no ways does it mean that the albums of Smokers Die Younger will make you go out and commit a few random cheeky murders (though you might end up with a paper umbrella in the floor of the Washington), but instead, it’s the approach taken to the craft.
One route is just an ordinary onslaught, the other one is a finesse exercise in, well, onslaught.
Let’s compare, peer to peer style, the opening songs for the first album (X wants the meat, or Jason in this analogy) and this one (Smokers die younger, or Patrick Bateman). Whereas X opened with the shoutastic “Bad driving school”, this album starts with the angelic/trippy “Youth map”.
The contrast between these two opening songs couldn’t be more obvious. Still, both are similar in the way that they lay out the mood (but not the sound) for the rest of the album.
So it is that “Youth map”, just like several tracks in the album, feels friendly, even peaceful, but then again, with Smokers Die Younger, you know you are in for a bit of leg-pulling. The 4 voice attack (including a collaboration from lovely Nat Johnson) is just another layer for the whole song which might feel like it goes nowhere. Until the screaming starts and the blindfold drops. The song was deceptively poppy, but it’s not. It’s a suave-faced killer. This signature sound rears its ugly face a few times.
Although the rhythm is mostly calmed (let’s say it’s introspective), there a few vivacious songs (“Red rum”, “Seconds”).A welcomed change, as some of the slower songs (“Holler if you hear me”, “Drinking song”) could be taxing for the non-fan.
In the subject of non-fans, “Knives” seems to be a good starting point to get into the band: dreamy moments, the nostalgic singing and then the raucous mayhem that comes with the Smokers Die Younger brand of music. Yeah. I like “Knives” a lot.
Incidentally, if you want to go deeper into the abyss that is the musical spectrum of SDY, do check the sea shanty of “Drinking Song”, a veritable slow waltz in hell. Or the baroqueness of “Holler if you hear me”, a good “last dance” type of song. They go well with a few rounds. And if you need a moment of deep, dreamy introspection, go for “Bad Driving Too”. No C-words this time.
But enough ramblings. The mixing is top notch again. Can’t go wrong with a mix that gives all voices their own weight and makes a bass sound so bloody cool (yeah, you, “Seconds”). Every instrument (and voice) gets their own chance to shine. No one overbears the other and in this day and age of The Loudness Wars, it’s a welcome approach.
It feels like the natural progression for the band. Whereas the first album had moments of furious anger, this time around, there’s still a strong feeling, channelled through different venues, but still being powerful and polished enough to stand up by itself. The album avoids the sophomoric error of “more of the same”. It goes wild and even if some stuff might be a misfire, the overall album is pretty good.
Maybe album three will be mostly ambient music with spoons and a tabla daisychained to a bunch of BOSS pedals. Who knows? Who cares? The Smokers Die Younger m.o. of just playing whatever they damn want to play is still alive and kicking and changes can take time to take in, but if you are patient enough, you’ll find a few cool things.
About the author: He swears on the grave of ALF that these are the lyrics to Youth Map: “And the dull fuck fuck fuck of your empty heart”. He needs to lay off the coffee.