Another Fine Day
Never Felt Before
Think About Yourself
Listen. This is important.
It might sound like hype, but as hype nips at your ears every day from every corner, who gives a damn? You’re smart. Your BS detector is strong; take this missive with a grain of salt, but don’t talk yourself out of opening your ears to this mix-by-one-band-how-can-this-be-one-band? that fell from the skies of Puerto Santa Maria, Spain and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Start with Gary Louris and Kraig Jarret Johnson’s “You Make It Easy.” A breezy love song about breezy commitment. Listen. To that solo. To those harmonies. Dare yourself not to sing along. Try to play “name the influences” and you will have fun but you will fail.
Then check out “Hurricane,” and hear Dan Murphy, singing his guts out and having, like the title track he co-penned says, “another fine day.” Dig Louris and Jeff Tweedy’s “Listen Joe,” and how they sing to themselves and a long-gone friend, “surprise, surprise, everyone dies.”
Listen. To what every new breed that comes along calls “old school,” to sounds baked into these guys since the days of vinyl. Feel the embers of all the mystics, all the Gram Parsons and Eagles and Zeppelin and Buzzcocks and Flaming Lips and Gorillaz (Kraig’s fave of the moment) records and all the rest that they’ve ingested. Truly, these cats have forgotten more records than the rest of us have sold to the used record store.
“Don’t it blow your mind like the first time? The dream is never over,” they ask, on “Corvette,” with the exuberance of high-schoolers playing together in the garage for the first of many times. Listen. To “Corvette”. Then listen to Louris’s “Gone”. They have been through death and love and war and all the other vagaries of middle age in these new Middle Ages, and this is the sound of them coming out the other side – or at least trying to come out the other side – with friendship and rock ‘n’ roll as their guides.
Friendship. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Back up.
Golden Smog started in 1992, when Perlman, Louris (The Jayhawks), Murphy (Soul Asylum), Johnson (Run Westy Run, Iffy), and Chris Mars (The Replacements) got together to record a few cover songs for the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Crackpot Records. Mars left the Smog fold almost immediately afterwards, Noah Levy (The Honeydogs) and Jody Stephens (Big Star) have done stints on drums, and Tweedy (Wilco) comes and goes these days.
The core four of Perlman, Louris, Murphy and Johnson remain, and have morphed into what many have referred to as an “alt-country super-group.”
“Is that what they call it?,” says Perlman. “For me it’s a side project that took off enough for us to do it more than once.”
“More than once” is starting to add up. The Smog has released three records – On Golden Smog (1992), Down By The Old Mainstream (1996) and Weird Tales (1998) –
and toured the U.S. and abroad. The band began work on their most recent material when Perlman got a call to write a song for a Guy Ritchie-directed Corvette commercial. The song – judiciously called “Corvette” and recorded by the Smog line-up – didn’t make it on the commercial, but it became the seed of the Smog’s latest, Another Fine Day.
“We never rehearsed any of it, so the songs all just kind of came to life when we got in the same room,” says Johnson. “It was fun. It wasn’t like we were planning on it, and I think that’s the really cool thing. It is what it is.”
“It was four guys mumbling into a microphone for a few sessions and going, `Oh, this could be a song,’” says Louris.
The initial recording of the first Smog record in eight years was done at producer/engineer Paco Loco’s studio in Puerto Santa Maria in the south of Spain. “Gary, Kraig, and I have fallen in love with the country the last few years,” says Perlman. “To tell you the truth, making the record there was an excuse to go to Spain for a month. If you’re gonna be bored in a studio, which is what you’re always gonna be, why not be bored in the south of Spain?”
“No one spoke English, so words didn’t get in the way,” says Murphy. “You couldn’t worry about stuff before you played. You just started playing, rather than telling people what you wanted it to sound like or be like, or what it was about.”
Joining the band on drums was Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn’s Miracle 3, Zuzu’s Petals). Also stepping in, and delivering one of the highlights of the record, was Muni Loco, producer Paco’s wife—who sang the haunting vocal on Perlman’s “Cure For This.”
“She was amazing,” says Perlman. “She came in and did it in two or three takes. Everyone was just stunned.”
Still, says Louris, "We wouldn't have made nearly the record we did had we started in Minneapolis. It kind of reminds me of the story of the making of Band On The Run, where everything that could have gone wrong did. Guitars were lost, luggage was lost, Tweedy couldn't make it, the studio wasn’t really quite up to L.A and yet, for some reason, it's like that old cliché: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It made for this certain vibe that Paco helped nurture. We went through this thing together."
All’s well that ends well. The record was completed with the help of Ed Ackerson at his Flowers recording studio in Minneapolis, where Tweedy and Stephens joined the recording. The result, 14 original songs (penned by Tweedy, Louris, Perlman, Murphy, and Johnson) and a cover of Dave Davies’ “Strangers” from the days of On Golden Smog.
“I didn’t think we’d ever make a record after that first one. I thought that was just a one-off,” says Murphy.
“I’ve never known where the Smog is going,” says Johnson. “Hence the name `Smog,’ right? It goes side to side, backwards, whatever.”
Wherever they’re going, one thing about the Smog is clear. You should listen.