Golden Smog - Another Fine Day

Self-indulgent, uneven, and utterly improper. Oh crap, it’s that most dreaded of all musical chestnuts: the SUPERGROUP!! It’s one of my pet peeves. Merging talented musicians together makes sense on paper, but we all know it often stinks of corporate cash cow. These “bands” lack any hunger to make a good album: people will buy the record out of intrigue regardless, so what is actually recorded doesn’t really matter. It’s only a side project, after all. I braced myself for a negative review.

Thankfully, my fears were completely misplaced. After one listen it’s clear that Another Fine Day was not created for any of the aforementioned cynical reasons. It’s just a bunch of talented musicians jamming out together. Consisting of elements from Wilco (the talismanic Jeff Tweedy), The Jayhawks (Gary Louris, Marc Perlman), Soul Asylum (Dan Murphy), and Run Westy Run (Kraig Johnson), this is one “supergroup” that actually lives up to the billing.

Golden Smog escape the trappings of the supergroup moniker by showing an obvious love for playing with each another. They seem to lack any fear of making a bad album, which allows them to be both relaxed and experimental. Testament to this was their decision to record half of the album in a location where nobody spoke English. Much like Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions, which lured musicians away from LA and into the Californian abyss, Golden Smog retreated to Puerto Santa Maria, Spain. Away from intrusive executives and producers, free from the shackles of major label expectation and overproduction, Tweedy et al can be heard in their most natural, pure state. This is alt-country rock stripped down to its most bare bones.

Another Fine Day begins fantastically, with “You Make It Easy” proving to be a beautiful song. It manages to be at once melodic and menacing, before it spirals off into a lovely, yawning fade. The opening track offers a reassuring start to the first Smog album in eight years, instantly assuaging any fears fans may have had about a changing direction of the band. Combined with the delay between albums, this is their first release since Wilco’s ascension to “it” band status and the (rumored) Jayhawks’ break-up. But these external forces prove irrelevant to the amiable sound of what is essentially five guys playing music that they truly love playing.

The return of the Minneapolis five-piece actually came about in far less romantic settings. Founding member Marc Pearlman got a call from Guy Richie in 2004 to pen the music for a car advert he was directing. Although the advert was quickly banned (conservative spoilsports complained about it showing a nine year-old boy joy riding), Corvette sowed the seed for the Smog’s latest album. The song is vintage power pop, played with an exuberance that contradicts their many years in the business. The chorus, “The dream is never over/Gonna blow your mind again/Like the first time,” explicitly exposes their excitement at playing together again. It’s a reunion of old friends. You almost get visions of “Brokeback Mountain”, with each Smogger sneaking away from their full-time band to barren lands to reignite an old flame they can’t quit.

But I guess it’s wrong to refer to this as a ‘comeback’ album. A band as elusive as Golden Smog cannot be perceived as ever really existing, and so can’t really have ever been away. Rather, it seems they form whenever the collective have an itch that can’t be scratched by their full time bands. Their name is quite fitting. Smog turns up out of nowhere, unannounced and can come and go in an instant. Wherever they’re going, one thing about the Smog is clear. They truly are a supergroup.

--Matthew Reville

Release Date: July 18, 2006

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