Smug Brothers - Disco Maroon (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Smug Brothers

Disco Maroon (2017)

Gas Daddy Go! Records

                There was a time, in the early nineties to be exact, when a slew of great indie bands burst onto the music scene. They were as influenced by the spirit and sound of punk and post-punk as they were by the great seventies power-pop bands. It seemed they were as capable of writing something loud and discordant as they were writing pop hooks. It was a special time in music when bands like Teenage Fanclub, Guided by Voices, and Pavement were bands you could find in most record stores and hear on most college radio stations. While those times have passed, occasionally you will find a band that keeps that spirit alive. Enter the Smug Brothers.

On their 10th release, Disco Maroon, the band plays some of the best indie rock this side of 1994. Opener “It’s Official Everywhere” is an expansion over their lo-fi roots as they incorporate post-punk into their sonic palette. They didn’t sacrifice any of their abilities as tune smiths in order to incorporate chugging bass lines and distorted guitars into their sound. This song, is a great example of how a band can expand their sound without completely alienating their core audience. Which is something many bands aren’t able to maintain when they grow their sound, because the change comes from a place their current fan base doesn’t have a frame of reference for.

Elsewhere on the album, the band takes cues from Big Star and Guided by Voices on “My Little Crowd Pleaser” which may be one of the most aptly named songs I’ve heard this year. Everything about this song, from the guitar and rhythm section to the vocals is pure hook. The guitar and vocal melody on the chorus will get stuck in your head for at least a day or two.

The band doesn’t completely abandon their home in the world of lo-fi rock though, as can be heard on tracks such as “A Sea by Jupiter” and “Amplifying Sigh.” While not a total abandonment of their lo-fi sound, there is one track that does stand out musically from the rest. “Wish it was June” is a country-tinged track at the album’s midpoint. While most likely the quietest track on the album, it also screams late nights on the front porch with some friends and some beers. It sounds like the end of a June night spent out at the bar with friends.

The band is likely to attract some comparisons to the mid-nineties work of Guided by Voices. Not only because they share a similar musical feel and both call Dayton, Ohio home. But, also because Kyle’s vocals can adopt a bit of British accent at times much like Rob Pollard’s. While not taking away from the album, it may cause some new listeners to check and see if they’re listening to a GBV b-side they hadn’t heard before.

As with so many things, timing plays a huge role in how an album is heard. This album would make a great companion on a summer road trip or a great soundtrack for driving home from a show with the windows down. While they aren’t breaking down any new doors with their sound, they’re opening some that haven’t been opened in almost thirty years. And it’s good to see bands breathing life back into the early 90’s brand of indie rock where you could let your sound go where it takes you, because you knew at the end of the day your fans had similar record collections to your own.