Words: James Frostick
Band image: Jamie Wdziekonski
Smarts – a fresh Naarm/Melbourne-based crew comprised of members of Ausmuteants, Parsnip and The Living Eyes – are today announcing their forthcoming debut LP, which is landing in mid-October. The album’s name Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? poses an interesting question but lead single ‘Cling Wrap’ quickly provides an answer – Smarts is vital for anyone with a taste for whirling madcap sax-fuelled punk.
Here’s something to wake you up – Victorian four-piece Smarts are hitting the fire alarm and alerting the world to the imminent arrival of their album Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? The 13-track compendium of playful, irreverent punk is dropping on October 16 through Anti Fade Records (Australia) and Feel It Records (USA), and follows through on the group’s early promise. The band’s 2018 EP Smart World was an immediate and punchy debut – pliable oddball punk that proved the crew was onto some solid ideas. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is an expansion on the concept – it’s still speedy and breathless, but it’s also cleaner and trimmed of excess. If you want to know what I mean, put your ears to the speaker and turn on lead single ‘Cling Wrap’ – a sublime example of Smarts’ expeditious dynamism.
In a nutshell, Smarts performs with a frenetic red-cordial-fuelled abandon, the kind that induces (via aural osmosis) a palpable adrenaline rush – a buzz in my blood like the onset of an acute sugar high. Loose stylistic connections could be made to egg punk (I catch some sounds reminiscent of The Coneheads), but if you like your comparisons local I’d say Smarts fits on the spectrum somewhere near (but also slightly apart from) Warrang/Sydney’s Gee Tee, Boorloo/Perth’s Ghoulies and fellow Naarm/Melbourne outfit The Shifters. Mitch Campleman’s guitar and Billy Gardner’s bass work is supple and limber, both able to oscillate between springy pluck, chunky buzz and high-pitched whine and back again. Jake Robertson’s percussive performance further cements his status as one of Melbourne underground’s most versatile musicians – a veritable Swiss army knife in human form. The sax, though. There’s an element of personal bias at play, but I reckon there’s something about a blaring horn or two that adds a robustness to any mixture – therefore, Stella Rennex’s contribution can’t be undersold. Overall, ‘Cling Wrap’ is an enlivening taster for what I can confirm is a supremely tight and thrilling record. Rest assured – listening to Smarts is the smart move.