By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The trio of singer-guitarist-songwriter Joey Shanks, guitarist-keyboard player Carter Albrecht, and bassist Ward Williams (along with drummers Lance Swaim and Dan Wojochieowski at various times) seems to be wrestling with itself a little on Smile, never able to decide whether it wants to play keyed-up lullabies ("Make it Mine," "All the Way Through") or pared-down, three-chord rock songs ("That's the One," "Sad Luck Blues"). The problem isn't that The Limes can't make a commitment to either side, but that it feels like the band already has, treating every song with kid gloves even when some of them beg to be roughed up a bit. Even when the group chooses to plug in and turn up, the result is too restrained, as if no one in the band wants to get dirt on their nice Sunday clothes.
Shanks' rainy-day voice, especially, isn't particularly suited to the uptempo numbers; it sounds as though he grew up listening to Morrissey before moving on to Leonard Cohen. (If you're not familiar with the math, Morrissey + Leonard Cohen = dismal, dreary, depressing, and several other unhappy words that start with d.) It fits in well when he's crying into his beer on the slide guitar-heavy "Make it Mine," singing, "It seems you got just what you want / And what you don't, you keep that too." But on songs such as "Sadz Luck Blues" -- despite a title that appears to be a perfect match -- his spoke-sung delivery just comes off like a decent Greg Dulli impersonation, nailing the voice but lacking most of what's behind it. Smile, then, is only half a step in the right direction. But there's enough here to believe The Limes are capable of taking the other half...maybe.
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