Smithereens' DiNizio makes no apologies for band's reliable sound

September 02, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

To stretch the proverb of the fox and the hedgehog a little, it could be said that some bands are fox bands, in that their music is quite diverse, doing a lot of little things in a variety of styles. But the Smithereens fall in the hedgehog category, because this band does one big thing.

For more than a dozen years, the New Jersey quartet has mined a very specific vein of rock 'n' roll, a gutsy, tuneful, guitar-based sound with roots firmly in the tradition of the Beatles and the Byrds. Granted, it's not the most fashionable approach these days, but for many listeners, there's nothing foolish about this band's consistency.

"A lot of people really dig the fact that we are reliable," says frontman Pat DiNizio, over the phone from a New York hotel. "People that come to our shows know what we are. We're not throwing any curve balls."

There are those, of course, particularly in the music press, who complain that the Smithereens stray a little too far into the realm of the same old song. Admits DiNizio, "We get a lot of criticism that the sound of the band is essentially the same now as it was in the beginning.

"But I think that's a sort of testament to our belief in what we do. It would certainly do me no good to try to completely reinvent what I do as a songwriter, and try to write songs like the Stone Temple Pilots do because that's really what's selling these days. I just have to be true to myself."

That's one reason he's so pleased with the band's latest album, "A Date with the Smithereens." For once, he says, the band has released an album that accurately represents its stage sound.

"It's a very accurate reflection of the live sound," he says. "The album was recorded essentially live. In fact, [producer] Don Dixon created this very nurturing environment, and the studio was a lot like the way we used to rehearse in my dad's basement in New Jersey. We all set up in the room together; there was a lot of eye contact. We could hear each other playing without headphones, and there were a lot of live vocals, a lot of first-take performances.

"This was specifically the type of record I wanted to make," he adds. "I wanted a real reflection of who we are and what we are at this point in our career and lives -- not just make the type of record we thought would sell, or thought that the record company wanted."

This was quite a departure from what happened with the band's last album, "Blow Up."

"I had a very different album in mind than what eventually came to pass," says DiNizio of that album. "I think that Capitol had some ideas, and our producer had some ideas about how to take the band to the next level, to go beyond what '11' did -- which was indeed a very successful album for us. They wanted to break us at the Top-40 level, you know?"

DiNizio's aim, on the other hand, was to make a rougher, rawer recording. "The original four-track demos were much more aggressive and nasty-sounding than what the album turned out to be," he says. "But after a while, you get tired of arguing with the producer. In many ways, it became his record, not ours."

That's all in the past, though, and the Smithereens are back to making basic, gritty rock 'n' roll. "That was never what we were about anyway. We were just a rock 'n' roll band from New Jersey who idolized the Byrds and the Beatles. If I can provide entertainment for someone or get them through their day with the music that I create -- great. And I believe we do."

Get a "Date"

To hear excerpts from the Smithereens' latest album, "A Date with the Smithereens," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6168 after you hear the greeting.

The Smithereens

When: Wednesday, Sept. 7, 8 p.m.

Where: Shriver Hall, Johns Hopkins University

Tickets: $16.50 for general public, $8 with Hopkins student ID

Call: (410) 481-7328

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