Smith & Burrows, the imaginatively titled group made up of Editors frontman Tom Smith and We Are Scientists drummer Andy Burrows, first reared its vanity project head back in 2011, when the boys put their collective musical powers together to make a really rather enjoyable Christmas album that was ridiculed by the NME and enjoyed by just about everyone else. So, there’s that.
Now, there’s this. The boys are back, having concluded business elsewhere for the foreseeable, and having spent enough time with a world-class producer in Jacquire King that they feel ready to unleash themselves on the world again. No matter what you’ve come for, Smith & Burrows provide. Want anthemic college rock with a pulse-raising, foot-tapping rhythm? Try the opener for size. Want pensive, thoughtful tunes informed as much by post-punk as classic pop? You’ll love Buccaneer Rum Jum and Aimee Move On for sure.
Elsewhere, the fun doesn’t stop. Spaghetti is relentlessly joyous and outrageously catchy, and Old TV Shows is just as nostalgic as you’d hoped. Too Late takes a side alley down to a dimly-lit street you might find Editors playing on, but Burrows’ yearning vocals push the song into some kind of ecstatic wonderland. The album is full of these little surprises, these seemingly obvious decisions (Smith singing the main chorus line on Too Late etc.) that have been purposefully ignored to make the album stand out. These two men are writing like their careers depend on it, on an album that couldn’t be any lower stakes.
The final track, Straight Up Like a Mohican, is a peach. Says Tom: “I remember Andy talking about the idea for Straight Up Like A Mohican years ago.” Andy: “I was walking round singing that line. Tom said: ‘Stop singing that out loud, someone will nick it!’ It was just a little idea I had kicking around – and obviously it’s a little bit daft.” Yes, it is a little bit daft, but it’s what makes albums like this work. Playfulness, silliness, friendliness – all here, and more.
Albums like this are, for better or worse, the easiest things to dismiss in the world (go and dig up that NME review), but goddamn if this isn’t one of the most woolly-jumper comfort blanket records you’ve heard in a long time. This is an enjoyable album made by two talented gentlemen who didn’t have to spend this long putting it together. Musicians of a higher status (Morrissey springs to mind) churn out whatever rubbish has crossed their mind that second, whereas musicians like this get ignored. Great record, boys. Don’t leave it this long next time, please.