In an alternative universe Wild Smiles’ debut album Always Tomorrow should have been the soundtrack to a cult road movie from the 1990s in which Christian Slater and Winona Ryder lead a gang of floppy haired drop-outs on a trail of adolescent destruction across California. Their hazy mix of grunge riffs, surf harmonies and brattish slacker snarl, would have been the perfect symphony as our anti-heroes headed along the West Coast in a beaten up Cadillac with a sack of full of cash and a dead body in the trunk. You can imagine their effortless cool as they dodge the law, hold up liquor stores and ponder the meaning of existence, whilst kitted out in oversized Sonic Youth shirts and those round-lense Lennon shades.
Breezy, fist-pumping album opener Fool For You would have played as the gang packed up and hurtled down the highway fleeing from their suburban lives, the spikey, crashing, hard-pogoing Figure It Out would have streamed out of the jukebox during a Blue Brothers-style bar brawl and as tensions grew and the gang started doubting their vigilante lifestyle and longing for home Never Wanted This would express their burning anxiety. As the sun went down, rain would drench the doomed romance of the provocateurs and things would get a lit bit weepy with lots of pouty slo-mo shots, as the shoegazey, Jesus Chain ballad The Best Four Years punctuates the scene with its refrain “I can’t live life in the pouring rain/ Love just feels like such a losing game/ Baby one day we’ll be together”. It all ends in a blaze of glory with the rampant, caustic strains of the rat race rejecting I’m Gone and as credits roll the heavens-bursting, Feeder blast of See You Again bounces us out of the cinema grinning.
This didn’t happen. In reality the Winchester brothers Chris (vocals, guitar) and Joe Peden (vocals/bass) and drummer Ben Cook have made an album of bittersweet indie nostalgia that sits them alongside the likes of The Vaccines, Best Coast and The Drums as purveyors of youthful, summery, scuzzy pop. Based around Chris’s romantic break-up and an uneasy refusal join the real world, they have a way of debasing innocent, jangly melodies and simple, heartfelt songwriting with fuzzy guitars and angsty energy, that continues to draw comparisons with Nirvana, Dinosaur Jnr, Ride and a host of late 80s/early 90s indie favourites.
The sugary rush does fall flat at times, but come festival season there might be the odd nugget here that breaks through, catches the sun, sets a muddy field alight and becomes a crossover anthem. And if it does, they have to get Winona and Christian to star in the video…