Full of ramshackle R&B and fuzzy garage, warmed by lo-fi production thanks to having been recorded in guitarist Max Kakacek's basement, and with a heavy predilection to Bolan-brand Glam, debuts rarely come more accomplished than the eponymous Smith Westerns
offering. And, having made full use of the Fat Possum studio, this precociously young set-up no doubt now cut an even-better-tailored figure with their follow-up Dye It Blonde.
Lessening the reverb and expanding their palette beyond The Beatles and T. Rex (drawing on a new found love of Teenage Fanclub, Oasis and Suede in the process), the band's summery hooks and strong melodies resolutely remain in place - now they're just more precise. Fresh-faced frontman Cullen Omori has got in on the act too, cleaning up his vocal echo into a dreamy embrace.
Having first seen light of day on a split with fellow Chicagoan optimists Magic Kids, "Imagine Pt. 3" - despite now being minutely more full in sound thanks to bolstered guitar and improved synth work, and now having been recorded at a slightly greater tempo - retains its and the band's familiar guitar haze and bounce. As a whole however, Dye It Blonde takes it even easier than the debut, overlooking previous sun-bleached structures in favour of fizzy, harmony-filled ballads like "All Die Young" and, also, unfortunately, throw-away grooves like "Dance-Away".
Fluttering in from the early 70s, the solid, George Harrison-like "Fallen In Love" splits the difference well. More pleasing still is the indistinct and wistful "Still New", Kakacek's stadium-sized Glam riffs and Cameron Omori's horizontal bass lines doing a grand job of shoring it and the album up.
Though arguably a little of Smith Westerns' charm has been lost now that they no longer sound like they were recorded underwater, adequate compensation is offered, for example, in the form of pretty arpeggios that appear in "Only One" and that would probably have previously gone unnoticed.
With plenty of such subtleties, Dye It Blonde's strength is not however in the detail. As heard on the joyous opener and single "Weekend", its jangling, poppish peaks and chord changes roam around the album high on life and this is what Dye It Blonde is all about. With an infectious smile that, for the most part, is nigh on impossible to wipe from its face, Smith Westerns prove this blonde, in this instance, does have all the fun.
Advised downloads: "Weekend" and "Imagine Pt. 3".