In a way, it’s a bold move for The Smithereens to call their new album of 1993 recordings, which is being released today, The Lost Album. It’s not just a collection of outtakes, they are declaring, but an actual album that could have been released back then, but wasn’t.
And miraculously, that’s what The Lost Album feels like: 12 abandoned songs that hold up well, nearly 30 years later. One imagines that if this album had been released in ’93, it would have been well received by fans and critics. Now it seems like a gift, and a particularly poignant one given the death of the band’s frontman, Pat DiNizio, in 2017.
The album was recorded when the band was between record contracts with Capitol and RCA, and thinking about releasing an album on their own label. Bassist Mike Mesaros has called The Lost Album “80 percent finished and rough mixed.” Certainly, some songs seem more finished than others, but nothing is so raw that it’s distracting.
Here is a song-by-song rundown.
“Out of This World.” A quintessential Smithereens song, dark but filled with hooks, and featuring an affecting, vulnerable vocal performance by DiNizio. Echoes of “A Girl Like You” and “Top of the Pops.”
“Dear Abby.” A clever premise, using the name of the famous advice column for a pleading love song addressed to a woman named Abby.
“Don’t Look Down.” There’s a touch of tentativeness in the playing here that does make it feel demo-like. You’ll hear backing vocals that sound female but aren’t: They’re actually by DiNizio, with the sound manipulated to make his voice sound higher than usual. The band put them there thinking they might later get a woman to sing that part.
“A World Apart.” Very catchy, with a slight touch of twang. Kind of like The Smithereens’ version of a honky-tonk ballad.
“Stop Bringing Me Down.” One of the album’s real gems: A swaggering ballad with heavy, menacing guitar riffs and an intriguing central character. It’s sung from the point of a view of a resentful rock musician with more attitude than his stalled career warrants. “Had a band and management, had a record deal but it came and it went/It’s too late/Met a girl in Beverly Hills, I did all the drugs and she paid all my bills/It was great,” DiNizio sings, in character.
“Pretty Little Lies.” A light, sweet-sounding pop ditty, and perhaps the album’s most disposable song.
“Monkey Man.” Not the Rolling Stones song, though it has a tough, Rolling Stones-like sound. Definitely a highlight.
“Everyday World.” Another one that sounds a little tentative, and maybe unfinished.
“Face the World with Pride.” A fun, upbeat track, with a guitar riff that made me think of The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.”
“Love Runs Wild.” Like “Pretty Little Lies,” but with a little more substance.
“I’m Sexy.” A funky rock song that’s not as lyrically assertive as its title makes it seem. “I’m sexy, I don’t look the way I feel/I’m angry, there’s a smile on my face/I’m lazy, when I know there’s work to do/I’m lonely, and I know that you are, too,” sings DiNizio.
“All Through the Night.” Not the Cyndi Lauper song, but a hopeful final statement that almost feels anthemic. “Don’t you know everything will be all right,” DiNizio sings. “I will be with you all through the night.”
For more on the album, visit officialsmithereens.com.
The Smithereens will perform at the URSB Carteret Performing Arts and Events Center, with Robin Wilson (of The Gin Blossoms) and Marshall Crenshaw singing lead, Dec. 3. Visit carteretpac.com.
Here are a few songs from the album:
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