The Lost Album
(Sunset Blvd. Records)
4 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
It’s not surprising that New Jersey’s veteran rock and roll outfit The Smithereens hasn’t released new material since 2011. After all, when a band loses its primary songwriter/vocalist and frontman, as with 2017’s untimely death of Smithereens’ driving creative force Pat DiNizio, it leaves a somber void.
Undeterred, the three other members, who formed in 1980, have released a series of live sets, B-sides, and other ephemera. They have famously recruited Marshall Crenshaw as replacement vocalist/guitarist, and continued touring behind the DiNizio penned songs along with the creative rearrangements of diverse covers they have always delivered in concert.
Here’s another item to keep The Smithereens’ name alive. In this case, the majority of these tracks have not previously seen the light of day. That won’t bring DiNizio back, but it helps keep his spirit alive with an album recorded when the outfit was between labels in 1993, yet oddly never released.
Considering the “lost” aspects of this music, the fidelity is surprisingly excellent, the melodic rockers are classic Smithereens and DiNizio is in typically strong, husky voice. The foursome plays with the same heart, soul, and vigor they are known and respected for. This is as close to a “new” album from the original group we’re likely to get in the foreseeable future…or maybe ever. A few inclusions though, especially the wonderful “A World Apart,” got an official release when DiNizio re-recorded them for his 1997 solo project, Songs and Sounds.
But the rest are unheard, outside of the Smithereens themselves, which makes this a surprise, even enlightening treasure trove. Everything is as good if not better than most of what is already in the Jersey quartet’s catalog. It makes one wonder why they haven’t been unearthed before.
Regardless, the Brit-pop of “Pretty Little Lies,” the Cheap Trick-styled power pop of “Monkey Man” and the glam rock of the tongue-in-cheek “I’m Sexy” are solid, moving examples of what these guys could accomplish at the height of their creativity. They crank the volume on the almost metal attack of “Stop Bringing Me Down” and the opening riff rocking “Out of this World,” the disc’s first single. But they also unplug for the sweet, closing acoustic “All Through the Night.”
These are no mere throwaways but rather finished, overdubbed and finely crafted tunes that any Smithereens fan will embrace. They mesh perfectly with the act’s classic, unembellished and ageless rock and roll and are a reminder of what the world lost with the passing of DiNizio.
Thankfully the remaining band has dedicated itself to keeping his art alive and this impressive set is a perfect way to do just that.