Old Smokey‘s new album Wester Easter ends with applause. Whether this is ironic or genuine, it is a fitting response to the fourteen-song milieu. The romp through sci-fi-tinged country isn’t a short one, but it is rather whimsical, as the band are out to prove that rural doesn’t have to mean boring.
You could call Old Smokey alt-country, but that’s like saying all Starbucks has is coffee; it’s an understatement that only paints some of the picture and leaves out interesting elements. The opening “Dead Man’s Pose” is an upbeat track that appropriately sounds like the soundtrack to opening film credits (or perhaps the closing ones). It’s driven by a choir of voices that, along with the driving snare, propel the song into a hopping tune. It almost seems silly at first, but there’s an authenticity that pervades any gimmick. “The Transylvania Effect” sounds like Frank N. Furter directed a blues band, with spaced-out instrumentation from waves of guitar to dreamy whistle. The wordless piece indeed feels like a dance number, with a hint of the country Old Smokey loves.
These are only a few descriptors of the band, however. “Vacant Lot” features husky vocals and light reedy tones that are reminiscent of vintage video games. Barely passing the two minute mark, the song is more of a reflection, but many of Old Smokey’s tunes are the same length, a testimony to brevity in creativity. “Mapache,” perhaps the most experimental piece, finds the band going from Middle Eastern melodies to a groove that could be a hoedown, albeit a calm one. The closer “Transylvania Jam” is a five-minute mini-opus that sounds like a toy store exploding. One of many instrumentals, the song is a roller coaster of chaos barely held together by the percussion. It’s one hell of a way to close what is a half-subtle, half-crazy record.
Describing Wester Easter is a feat in and of itself. There is a cinematic legitimacy to their sound, but there’s also a humor that may not entirely be on purpose. Whatever the case, the album stretches a typical range of genres and perhaps defies genre itself. For those who want to ride through the savannah in a travelling circus, the album is perfect. For those who want to play it safe, Old Smokey may not be the best bet.