[Sony Music, 2019]
Intro: Panagiotis Stathopoulos
Translation: Vangelis Christodoulou
07/ 09 / 2019
Since their first days as a band, Lino Gitto, Roberto Dell’Era and Enrico Gabrielli deemed the British psych/prog of the late 60’s and early 70’s as the starting point for their own style, combined with an obvious yet pleasant emphasis on the Canterbury sound. Soft Machine’s first two albums and Caravan – predominantly – come to mind as benchmarks for what the trio from Milan (alongside other musicians) create. Winstons’ said songwriting was first exhibited (in grand, to put it mildly) οn their 2016 self-titled debut album, where their resourceful melodicism found shelter in addictive and intuitive grooves. Their creative output did not stop there, as they put out an excellent live album the very same year (Live in Rome) as well as two more objets d’art. 2017’s Pictures at an Exhibition (our reviews here), which constituted a successful progressive rock approach (distinguished by Emerson, Lake and Palmer‘s version) to Modest Mussorgsky’s classical piece (with Esecutoridi Metallo Su Carta and Andrew Quinn’s contribution) and lastly, this year’s Smith…
A fresh-οlden brew
A look-in to moments within the Winstons’ discography so far, be it regarding standalone compositions, or some of their complete works, reveals their insistent proclivity to underpin their structures on gushing and catchy melody lines. Those lines alongside the unexpected rhythmic changes and the tracks’ prog tendency have been playing central role to the band’s approach, something that is also prevalent on Smith, their third studio album. Meanwhile, their pop touches are intensified and widespread.
The album regards a new venture and a fresh statement of ideas to be added to their already astonishing arsenal. In reality, it looks as if the Italian band have stirred their brew a bit more, considerably redefining their concepts. As such, references and influences that have not yet cut the swathe, finally contribute to the whole. For example, the Beatles / Lennon reminiscence in the mellow and extroverted psych-orchestral pop arrangements (as in the tracks Around the Boat and Ghost Town) or the gentler-minded acts, like the ballad A Man Happier Than You, as guested by the singer Mick Harvey. Furthermore, the loans from the classic british prog (symphonic and otherwise) school are extensive, specifically in The Blue Traffic Light and Soon Everyday, while the need for more complexity uncovers fusions like the mid 70’s blues/Canterbury Canterbury Tamarind Smile/Apple Pie.
Lino Gitto, Roberto Dell’Era and Enrico Gabrielli’s quest to hither and thither tag new aspects on their style, dictated employing plenty of new actors. Besides the aforementioned Mick Harvey, Richard Sinclair shines behind the mic on Impotence, a Wilde Flowers cover(!), Federico Pierantoni and his trombone are moving on Tamarind Smile/Apple Pie, while Nic Chester is killing it on Rocket Belt’s pianistic retro/heavy prog delirium. This abundance of inputs commanded a significant shift in the arrangement practices. You see, while the previous Winstons albums would brush the guitars aside to be firmly taken over by the keyboards, or even make them disappear on Pictures at an Exhibition, on Smith they somewhat make a comeback. The solo guitar lines on the marvelous Sintagma that will bring back memories of the band’s motherland’s glorious past, is evidence of that.
Winstons have recorded a delicious album that while stirring and spicing up their hitherto brew, does not divert their sound route from forms and norms.
7.5 / 10
The Winstons’ journey since their amazing self-titled debut album has already proven to be unpredictable, even if they’ve only been around for 3 years. Smith is the next step following their own interpretation of the legendary Pictures at an Exhibition, which – as was probably expected – has nothing to do with the original. The british pop references are still dominant, while the tendency towards the trademark 70’s Canterbury sound is also still prevalent. Throughout 12 tracks that clock at 41 minutes, the Italians’ expressive pluralism is astonishing, as the palette of influences and styles is wider than ever. The trio’s intellectual pop / prog is definitely retro but strangely doesn’t fall into the obsession for the bygone trap. The crispness and excellent grooves effortlessly grip the audience and their unique, romantic resourcefulness deviates by a long shot from the innocence of the forefathers of the said sound. The only letdown is that while all the compositions are straightforward and “old-timely” thought-out, without the regular dead-ends showcased by many contemporary bands, they are obviously unrelated to one another, which rather gives the impression of a compilation than a coherent body of work.
7 / 10