A jittery shot in the arm reaches the masses today with the proper debut from Smarts. The band brings together some ace Aussie talent, with members of Living Eyes, Ausmuteants, Parsnip and School Damage in tow. Smarts captures the kind of fork in the light socket jolt that spread through the Midwest around the tail of the ‘70s, injecting punk with a stable of bands who were heavier on damaged scope than effortless cool. They knit together Devo’s caustic worldview with the jagged edges of underground currents like The Pink Section, Pere Ubu, MX-80, Dow Jones and the Industrials, and Geza X. Though they’d drop down nicely next to current squirm-punk purveyors like Uranium Club. While planty of punks, especially in their vicinity are looking to the smashed glass school of riff wrangle, Smarts wield their fury with a sense of fun.
The band has an admirable ability to not take themselves too seriously, while still drawing quite a bit of blood musically. The pace is breathless and its pretty easy to see how multiple players behind Living Eyes and Ausmuteants are in the mix here. The latter’s sense of chaotic drive comes to mind more than once over the course of the album’s scant playing time, though they don’t drop too heavily in the shadow of their former bands. The blasts of sax from Stella Rennex lace the record with Downtown ‘70s vibes. The chewed foil guitars butt heads with ozone-crusted synths and Billy Gadner’s nasal delivery gives this one a perfectly fried-nerve approach. The best of the ‘70s twitchers weren’t in it because picking up a guitar made you cool, they were tearing apart the rock idol with each ragged riff. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway is born out of that bloodline and it jolts just as hard.