So just how did the Smithereens
become a Beatles
tribute band? It's no great surprise that they owe a debt of influence to the Fab Four
, but instead of absorbing the lessons of their music, lately the Smithereens
are content to simply play their songs, generally as close to the original arrangements as they can muster, and B-Sides the Beatles
is the second album in two years from the Smithereens
that's devoted entirely to Beatles
covers. Released in 2007, Meet the Smithereens!
was a song-by-song re-creation of the Beatles
' first American LP, while 2008's B-Sides the Beatles
takes a slightly less derivative approach, featuring a dozen songs that appeared on the flip sides of Beatles
hits in the United States. While these songs are a bit less familiar than the stuff on Meet the Smithereens!
, most will be immediately recognizable to anyone who likes rock & roll, and as on Meet the Smithereens!
, the band plays these songs with skill and enthusiasm but little imagination, following the originals with the crowd-pleasing determination of a true bar band. What most clearly sets these versions apart are the vocals, and while Pat DiNizio
's moody style made for an interesting contrast on the Smithereens
' first Beatles
tribute, he sounds a bit rough here and has a hard time with "There's a Place" and "If I Fell," which demand a higher and clearer register than he has to offer. And though guitarist Jim Babjak
's lead vocals on "Some Other Guy" and "Happy Just to Dance with You" aren't bad, he's clearly more comfortable with the six-string than he is before the vocal mike. There are a couple of nice touches -- Andy White
, the session man who played drums on the original session for "P.S. I Love You" instead of the newly recruited Ringo
, re-created his drum part here and sounds as good now as he did in 1963, and the cover artwork from the great Jack Davis
is excellent. But like Meet the Smithereens!
, B-Sides the Beatles
will leave most listeners wondering why they aren't listening to an actual Beatles
album instead, something the Smithereens
may well be doing at this very moment. (Note to the budget-minded: the album runs a brief and historically accurate 28 minutes.)