Smith Westerns

It’s a strange experience being twenty. You figure out where to put your arms when you walk. You start to grow even more hair in places where there wasn’t any before (here we come, five o clock shadow). You become more confident in yourself, a couple of years removed from the fishbowl entrapment that is high school.

On the downside, you can’t rely on the stereotypes of teenagers for excuses anymore; people start to expect things of you. You get asked all the big questions:

–          What are you going to do with your life?

–          Are you going to move out?

–          Are you going to eat the rest of that donut?

One other thing that also happens, but isn’t really talked about all that much, is that your peers start to achieve. Friends start releasing albums of original music. University colleagues convert scholarships into lucrative career opportunities.  Former classmates pop up on “The Morning Show” on Channel 7 (yes, this happened to me last year). The point is, ambitions and dreams start to be realised- those delusions of grandeur teens hold, the ones you and your friends have cynically (and hypocritically) derided for what seems like an aeon, may turn out to be not all that delusional.

The so-called “big picture” starts to paint itself. Those to which this does not happen suffer from a quarter-life crisis as they struggle to reconcile their lack of a defined path with the looming need to gain some sense of responsibility. Those to which this does happen unfortunately also suffer from a crisis stemming from the uncertainty they feel in making these key decisions only two years after they were legally allowed to sip a glass of red and contemplate them. Envy for the other holds domain in each collective, and it bears repeating that being twenty is indeed a strange experience.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and with my flimsy premise obviously constituting a rule, it is reasonable to assume some people do not have to suffer through this draining rite of passage. One of these people would be Cullen Omori. Since it is relatively unlikely that you know who Omori is, I’ll quickly bring you up to speed. He is the lead singer and frontman of the pop/synth/glam/rock band Smith Westerns. The Smith Westerns released their sophomore record “Dye It Blonde” earlier this year, an album that revolves around the themes of youth, love and partying. These are hardly groundbreaking areas for modern music to access but they are unquestionably fertile, and the Smith Westerns’ surprisingly mature and complex songwriting creates, in my humble opinion, the best album of 2011 so far.

The most instantaneously notable thing about the Smith Westerns is how young they are. Omori is 21, I think; the rest of the band is only either 19 or 20 years of age, despite them having been together for a few years now. These guys are making music presumably that they and hopefully other people their age will enjoy and relate to the most (which is probably why I’m biased towards them). Smartly, it focuses on the exuberant lifestyle being a twenty year old can present, rather than the impending choices we all have to make about such lifestyles. And this is because they can afford to; they’re just a few dudes living out their dream, playing music for a job and travelling the world. Though admittedly Omori does seem to realise that by doing so, they are tempting fate and possibly just pushing back the inevitable; in one interview, he tells the reporter of how he wants so badly for the Smith Westerns to succeed, for his greatest fear is to have to go back to school and join the rat race.

Of course, this all comes back to me. The way that I see it, I have two choices when it comes to the Smith Westerns’ music: either reject it as youthful positivity emblematic of the Facebook generation’s penchant for whitewashing life, or embrace it.

I think I’ll go with the latter. They seem like guys my band could get along with on a tour.


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