By Hannah Allen
Smile Smile has definitely become Dallas’s sweethearts … except that the once romantically involved duo broke up a few years ago. Maybe I’m old fashioned but whenever I’ve been part of a breakup there was none of this, “let’s still be friends” nonsense going on. Things didn’t work out so, really, why have a constant reminder – you go your way, I’ll go mine. This policy has served me well over the years, largely because I’ve always been of the mind that if you’re hanging around with your ex clearly you’re not over them and, well, that’s sort of desperate and pathetic. I just want to grab these poor people by the shoulders and scream, “YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS! YOU DESERVE LOVE!” So, this attitude may have, ever so slightly, colored my experience at duo’s CD release party last weekend at The Granada Theater.
Their last album, Truth on Tape is more or less the documentary of a breakup. The culmination of the entire thing is the title track, which testifies that their story has been irrefutably laid down on a record. You can imagine the awkwardness when singer Ryan Hamilton dedicated that song to keyboardist and co-singer Jencey Hirunrusme’s brand new husband after he shuddered and squirmed claiming he’d never actually heard her use that term prior.
Awkwardness aside, I sometimes wonder if I’m the only less than devout follower of this newfangled electro-folk sound which seems to be sweeping the indie scene and slowly creeping into mainstream popular music. Bands like Sleigh Bells and even Dallas’s own Ishi don’t seem to have any kind of variance as far as overall sound goes. Sometimes during opening lines to some of these songs I can feel the spirit of duo-folk acts of yesteryear such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez or Simon and Garfunkle but I miss the social conscience they brought with them. Admittedly, Hamilton’s vocals bear a striking resemblance to Paul Simon’s in the best way possible, but Smile Smile stays on the same plane, sonically, throughout a song and from one song to the next.
Undoubtedly the strongest part of the evening came during the slightly lame acoustic opening set comprised of two members of Bowling for Soup. Ryan Hamilton was invited onstage and the rest of Smile Smile’s backing band joined him for a second number as they performed songs from Hamilton and BFS front man Jaret Reddick’s side project, People on Vacation. The sound of this local super-group finds a happy medium between Reddick’s unique voice and Hamilton’s more sensitive songwriting. It’s nice to see Hamilton is, in fact, capable of writing about something other than girls and a broken heart but I’m honestly just scratching my head as to why it took the creation of a second band to be able to showcase any type of versatility.
Smile Smile’s sophomore effort Marry A Stranger on Kirkland records is ever so slightly harder hitting than ‘Truth on Tape’ but both Hamilton and Hirunrusme’s performances lack range of any kind. The phrase one-track-pony consistently leaps to mind. Adding to the more-of-the-same vibe is the video of title track which features both singers at a fictitious wedding where Hirunrusme is cast as the bride and flees the wedding with Hamilton chasing behind, both singing mushy things like, “you’re my one and only” together. (cricket, cricket) I’m seriously failing to see how this type of unrequited whatever-the-hell is selling albums for these people.