1986, Music

Especially for You (1986) by The Smithereens

Like many people, I’m probably listening to this – and taking it seriously – in part because of Kurt Cobain. I did not enjoy Green Thoughts but it’s been long enough that I forgot about that, so I was able to approach this with fresh ears and be more charitable to it than I would have had I only recently disliked Green Thoughts.

This is some incredibly conservative “alternative rock.” It’s “alternative” because it doesn’t sound like mainstream ’80s rock or pop music. Instead, as many have noted, it sounds like the ’60s, as filtered through an ’80s college rock/jangle pop lens. It’s “alternative” in only the vaguest sense. Some people compare them to REM and, frankly, I don’t hear much there. REM was much punkier in their pre 1986 records. (Not to mention much more into the Byrds…)

Fortunately, DiNizio has written some pretty great songs – they are catchy and compelling and it’s easy to see why power pop fans like this record. Most of them are up to a particular standard and there aren’t too many weak ones.
The band has enough muscle for power pop and I guess, in college rock terms, they are a “rock” band. But they are a conservative one: for instance, “Time And Time Again” sounds like slightly more modern Roy Orbison at times, for example (the riff not the voice, though his voice is super traditional). Occasionally Babjak plays a solo that manages to sound somewhat modern – though still tied to the past – but if you remove the jangly guitars and the production it really could have been performed and recorded in another era.

But it’s good for what it is. And it must be a mark that I am softening in my old age that I’m willing to forgive its outright conservatism because the songs are so good. Not that many years ago – perhaps when I listened to Green Thoughts – I would have dismissed it outright as revivalism and nostalgia.


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