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B-Sides The Beatles (Beatles Tribute Album)

The Smithereens

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Album Review

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.)

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Carteret, NJ

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Dressed in leather, brandishing heavy guitars, and exhibiting an unabashed fetish for British Invasion pop, the Smithereens were an anomaly in the American college rock scene of the late '80s. Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Pat DiNizio stood out not only with his strange beatnik goatee, but also because his catchy hooks were haunting, not punchy, and because his lyrics were morose. As time wore on, the group became more straightforward, turning into an excellent bar band, one that attacked pop...
Full bio

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