Indie musicians can get too derivative: It can be a fine line between a new psych-rock band and Jefferson Airplane. As an artist, you can be a derivative rip-off or a derivative forward thinker. The Smith Westerns are the latter.
On its third album, “Soft Will,” the Chicago-based band mines territory not often touched in the indie world: ’70s glam rock. “Soft Will” contains the warm choruses and bright guitar riffs so familiar to the genre. This is all the more impressive given that members of the Smith Westerns are only in their early 20s, born long after that music made its mark.
But although this is power-pop at its best, the Smith Westerns are far more restrained on “Soft Will” than on their first two releases. It’s a more contemplative album, perhaps a look back on the breakneck rise of the band and its attendant insecurities, as evidenced by singer Cullen Omori’s first line of album opener “3am Spiritual”: “It’s easier to think you’re dumb.”
On the third track, “Glossed,” the Smith Westerns of old return. It’s a sunny, uptempo number with syrupy synths and bright guitar hooks. The band doesn’t fare as well on slower tracks such as “White Oath” and the instrumental “XXIII.” Still, no matter the song, the Smith Westerns have an uncanny ability to write old-school pop songs with depth, with each listen revealing another nuance in the layers of vocals and instrumentation.
Kindred spirits: Marc Bolan, Oasis,
Mott the Hoople
Show: With Wampire on Tuesday at
the Black Cat. Doors open at 8 p.m.
202-667-4490. www.blackcatdc.com. $15 in advance, $18 at the door.