The fourth full-length effort by the Smith Street Band finds the Melbourne punks sticking to their signature sound while pushing it to extremes in all directions: the louds are louder, the quiets are quieter and there's rarely a moment that doesn't feel like they've poured their hearts into every chord and every word. More Scared of You Than You Are of Me is all about the forcefulness of feeling, and how those forces come together in a bond — or explode on impact.
Frontman Wil Wagner careens around like a fireball of passion, determination, romance and cynicism here, burning brightly yet always on the verge of being snuffed out. Through his classically thick Aussie accent, he belts out prosaic, day-in-the-life lyrics that are sometimes so universal they're completely relatable to pretty much anyone and other times so specific that they're familiar to basically no one. (It's a style that fans of Modern Baseball, the Wonder Years and the like will recognize.) Wagner can be verbose at times, and his round-the-clock bellowing may be a challenge for some, but he's certainly honest in all aspects of his delivery.
In much the same spirit of the latest efforts by PUP and Jeff Rosenstock — the latter of whom, incidentally, produced this record — More Scared of You is a booming, jumbled and explosive work that's the best kind of mess. The Smith Street Band know how to spin a strong hook and build it higher and higher until it topples. "Death to the Lads" has a chorus that not only stands out on the album, but among punk-rock anthems in general. "Suffer" is heavy, noisy and melodramatic, while "Laughing (or Pretending to Laugh)" brings the record to an endearing, nearly peaceful end.
Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get into the really solid parts — "Song for You" and "Passiona," for example, trot along for a while until they reach cathartically climactic conclusions — but it quickly becomes clear that no matter what's happening here, there's something big right around the corner. (Side One Dummy)