Release date: October 24, 1989
A Girl Like You
Blues Before And After
Baby Be Good
Room Without A View
Kiss Your Tears Away
Produced by: Ed Stasium
Smithereens 11 offers up what The Smithereens do better than anyone: a pure potent concoction of rock ‘n’ roll and pop. Singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio continues to pen the kind of tunes the New Trouser Press Record Guide has described as “impossibly winsome, memorable and rapturous without sacrificing any rock ‘n’ roll energy or guts.” And, if anything, the band has sharpened its ability to play shimmering, harmony-drenched melodic pop on Smithereens 11.
Smithereens 11 (the title a sly send-up of the Rat Pack film classic Oceans 11) sees DiNizio’s razor-sharp observations focusing on the more upbeat and romantic side of relationships, like “Kiss Your Tears Away,” a beautiful ballad, and “A Girl Like You,” the album’s hard-rocking first single. Other songs, like “Maria Elena” (inspired by Buddy Holly’s widow) and “William Wilson” (about a long overdue father and son reunion), travel uncharted territory.
The songs are musically diverse as well, as attested by tracks like the gorgeous, melancholic “Blue Period” (with Belinda Carlisle on backing vocals), the fuzzed-out “Blues Before and After,” and the sparkling “Cut Flowers,” the most recent recorded writing collaboration between DiNizio and guitarist Jim Babjak.
As announced by the pulverizing opening chords of “A Girl Like You,” the album’s kickoff track, the guitars punch, the drums snap and the vocals soar throughout the record…all of which makes sense in light of DiNizio’s description of the band: “AC/DC meets the Beatles — the crunch of those guitars and the melodic sense of the Beatles.”
With original bandmembers intact, they follow up last year’s Green Thoughts, the band’s debut for Enigma/Capitol Records. “We wanted to try to get a more in-your-face guitar sound,” explains bassist Mike Mesaros, “and we wanted everything crisper sounding, louder and more present. We’ve always been fairly heavy and raunchy live, and we wanted to capture a little more of that on record.”
The album’s harder sound is partially attributable to producer Ed Stasium, who’s worked on hard-rockin’ gems for, among dozens of others, the Ramones, Soul Asylum, Fetchin Bones, and most recently, Living Colour. “When I was 14,1 used to go to a guitar store in my home town and worship one particular guitar,” recalls DiNizio. “It was a blue Kalamazoo electric, a cheaper version of a Gibson. And the salesman/guitar teacher there always let me take it off the wall and play it, even though he knew damn well I couldn’t afford it. It turns out that the guy was Ed, and twenty years later here we are working together.”
“We’d switched producers for this album, going from Don Dixon to Ed Stasium, who’d produced Living Colour and The Ramones. I’m not sure what we were looking for…maybe a heavier guitar sound, like in ‘Girl Like You.’ We were trying to preserve our integrity, yet find a home on radio.” -Pat DiNizio