Having spent much of the past month writing on this blog about how Pop is no longer a young man’s game, here come Smoosh to prove that even if that is true, Pop is very much a young woman’s game too.
It is astonishing to think that this is already Smoosh’s third album. Astonishing perhaps too that it is such a mature work given that none of the group must be much over 18 years old. There was a time of course when pretty much all that was written about Smoosh was prefaced by something about their age. I guess I’m as guilty as any in that respect, but really, we should no longer think about it other than to allow us to realise that some young people really are capable of remarkable things.
I do not buy into the whole veneration of youth thing. I do not subscribe to the view that all children are innately creative, imaginative, intelligent individuals who get destroyed by schooling and society. After all, who is forcing them to spend their time watching X-Factor and reading books about vampires?
I do however believe that some young people who may be artistically gifted are sadly either never given, or never allow themselves to be open to subtle guidance and encouragement. They are never given the sufficient blend of space and inspiration to blossom. They fail to develop the artistic maturity and rigour required to be take their talent beyond the limits of their age. Incidentally, that’s not a criticism per se, just an observation, and before this turns into an essay on why the pulling of funding for Arts in this country will, alongside the Education Secretary’s apparent determination to sideline Arts subjects to the dumpster, screw the creative industries in the way that Thatcher and her cronies fucked over our heavy industry in the ‘80s, let’s quickly return to Smoosh.
For Smoosh do transcend their age. And how! On ‘Withershins’ they manage the difficult task of capturing something of the ennui of teenage years without resorting to cliche (either lyrical or musical). They sidestep the tedium of hipster chic and the banality of mainstream chart pop with remarkable agility. There are so many highlights on ‘Withershins’ that it feels wrong to pull out one to showcase; but although I may have been tempted by the bleakly piano led ‘Dark Shine’ (now there is a song whose title aptly describes its sound!) or ‘The World’s Not Bad’, and although the sparkling shiver of ‘Aaarplane’ makes me quiver and puts me in mind of Sugarcubes snogging The Orchids, it is to album opener ‘Finnerödja’ that I return time and time again. With its hoarfrost atmosphere pierced by restrained guitar icicles and Asya’s voice floating softly through the mist it sounds for all the world like a gothic (as opposed to Goth - I’m sure you understand the importance of making that distinction!) masterpiece.
I said back at the start of October that ‘Withershins’ had slipped to the top of my list of ‘albums of the year’ and it’s remained firmly embedded there ever since. Although the ludicrously limited edition CD (fifty copies!) is long gone, the entire album is still free to download from their Bandcamp page. Give yourself an early Christmas gift. You won’t regret it.
Download 'Withershins' from the Smoosh Bandcamp page.