The Smithereens

Founded in 1980, the New Jersey-based Smithereens reside somewhat on the fringes of the power pop genre. Like Cheap Trick, they rock harder than other so-called power pop acts. And – though they’ve cut two albums in tribute to the Beatles – Smithereens are perhaps less Beatlesque than most, instead drawing inspiration in equal parts from sixties girl groups (such as the Shangri-Las), seventies heavy metal (Black Sabbath), and good old-fashioned rock’n’roll. Balancing inward-looking melancholy lyrics about love, loss and regret with muscular, no-bullshit musicianship, the Smithereens are exemplars of the timeless appeal of rock at its best. Across eleven studio albums, two EPs and a few live discs, they’ve remained true to their musical vision without pandering or scraping over already-explored musical ground.

If one song could sum up everything that makes the Smithereens special, it might be – oddly enough – a tune that has never appeared on any of their studio albums. “Any Other Way” first appeared on guitarist Pat DiNizio’s self-titled 2007 album, and was subsequently performed by the Smithereens on their 2008 live set Live at the Court: Greatest Hits and More! “Any Other Way” combines the chiming, melodic pop aesthetic with a minor-key arrangement that imbues the song with a vaguely sinister edge. While DiNizio’s original version is excellent, it’s the Smithereens version – with the more aggressive guitar tone of lead guitarist Jim Babjak and the impeccable, assured drum work of Dennis Diken – that elevates the song to the level of brilliance. And DiNizio’s ba-da-ba vocalizations – a key component of the tune and the subject of countless Smithereens concert singalongs – reach back to groups like The Turtles and The Mamas and the Papas.

– Bill Kopp


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