(4 out of 5)
A natural response when encountering Smith Westerns for the first time is to try and draw comparisons to another clutch of garage-rock-inspired teens; but if you want to try and put this Chicago quartet in the same bag as, say, Be Your Own Pet, you’re gonna have your work cut out for you. Sure, both bands began making a ton of noise fresh out of high school, but while BYOP spun out garage-rock’s spit and rebellion into something provocative and unhinged, Smith Westerns mine the genre for a sort of gleeful, semi-sweet take on NUGGETS-style rock n’ roll. In fact, the pure joy that’s evident on DYE IT BLONDE finds Smith Westerns polishing the style they defined on their debut into an altogether more frantically happy thing; though a few of the rougher edges are rounded off, what’s more notable about DYE is how it manages to sound simultaneously spontaneous and well-crafted. Much of the material here — especially on the giddy grin of “Dance Away” and the slinky, mid-tempo swoon of “Fallen In Love” — sounds a lot more indebted to the Sweet than to the Sonics. But just because DYE IT BLONDE is bubbly fun — and, really, how else could you define a refrain like “na, na, na, a girl like you” on the ebullient “Weekend”? — doesn’t mean it’s less-than-substantial; it just means that these kids have figured out how to bring a little goofiness back into the garage.