In the music industry, there's nothing like "lost music" to pique fans' interest. Too often, it turns out to be much ado about nothing, with the so-called "lost" tracks not amounting to much.
Enter the Smithereens, whose LP "The Lost Album" has proven to be the exception to the rule. Originally recorded back in 1993, "The Lost Album" delivers the goods in the form of a dozen honest-to-goodness, previously unheard original Smithereens recordings.
"The Lost Album" finds its roots in the fall months of 1993, when the New Jersey quartet found themselves in the unenviable position of having been dropped by Capitol Records. With the notion of recording new music for their own label, the band booked time at New York City's Crystal Sound Studios. Originally formed in 1980, the hard-driving Smithereens included lead singer Pat DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken.
In the wake of DiNizio's untimely death in 2017, "The Lost Album" takes on a special poignance. The LP exists as a documentary of sorts, depicting the band in a strange interregnum before they landed a new contract with RCA and recorded the hit album "A Date with the Smithereens," which featured radio hit "Miles from Nowhere." With the band suddenly back on track, courtesy of their new record deal, the tracks that comprised "The Lost Album" went into cold storage. Until now, that is.
"And so The Lost Album lives," says Mesaros in the press materials. "Listen and float with us in between labels purgatory. Pat D. is in fine fettle and we are young, together, and tight." Thinking back about those heady days at Crystal Sound, Mesaros points out that the surviving Smithereens are "jazzed about this project because, for the first time, we are producing ourselves, and mum's the word to the outside world. Somehow, it evokes the early days when we were our own best kept secret and a fan club of four."
The result is a breath of fresh air, an unexpected blast from the past. With the band preparing for an upcoming tour — Marshall Crenshaw will handle lead vocals in place of DiNizio — "The Lost Album" affords fans with new music in a propitious moment, to say the least.
For Mesaros, the album has provided an unforgettable, even touching walk down memory lane. "At this point we were really listening to each other," he recalled, "and this was key in our individual styles meshing so well. A real band. We could be mean, sweet, joyful, or brooding. As need be. We still were in our prime—young, battle-scarred vets who were fluent in the lingua franca of rock 'n' roll but still not far removed from Jimmy's garage and Pat's basement. (We still aren't.)."
A hard-rocking tour-de-force, "The Lost Album" doesn't disappoint.
music reviews by Kenneth Womack: