No Tricks, Just Solid Rock From the Smithereens

STRAIGHTFORWARD, no-nonsense rockers. That's how fans describe the Smithereens. They're a ``basic rock-and-roll group. They don't have an attitude,'' said Greg Makris, 19, from Manchester, N.H., before a recent Boston show. His friend, Tony Boutin, put it another way: ``No New Kids on the Block, no rap, no dance, no synth[esizer]. Just downright rock and roll.''

At Boston's Orpheum Theatre, the Smithereens played a powerful, nearly sold-out show. The high-decibel, hour-and-a-half concert yielded some 15 songs, plus two encores. Fans left wanting more. On stage, the four black-clad rockers belted out songs that took no time to enthrall the audience. The fare included selections from their latest album ``11,'' as well as from their previous two records ``Green'' and ``Especially for You.'' Highlights were the pop-hit ``Yesterday Girl,'' ``Only a Memory,'' ``Blues Before and After,'' ``Girl Like You,'' and ``Blood and Roses.''

The Smithereens' music has been described as ``'60s-gone-'90s'' rock; pithy tunes with aggressive guitar and romantic lyrics. Band members cite influences such as the Beatles, the Who, Buddy Holly, and the Kinks.

One of the Smithereens' strong points is their ability to maintain a small-club atmosphere before a large audience. Band members stalked the stage Presley-style during the '60s-influenced jam session, tossing jokes and gestures. ``Who said Elvis was dead?'' joked lead singer Pat DiNizio.

In an industry infiltrated with glitz, pretty faces, and an MTV mentality, the Smithereens are decidedly unpretentious.

``They're ordinary people,'' said Curt Nunes, 27, from Wareham, Mass. ``They're not all dressed up in leather and straps and stuff,'' added his friend.

The tour celebrates the group's new release ``11'' (the title refers to the Rat Pack film ``Ocean's Eleven''), which has vaulted the band into Top-40 recognition. The album is about to go gold, with nearly 500,000 copies sold.

Rolling Stone magazine gave it a four star (``excellent'') rating, saying, ``Smithereens' `11' is as delicious an album as you will hear in this or any other year.''

Formed in New Jersey in 1980, the quartet - Jim Babjak (guitar, vocals), Dennis Diken (drums, vocals), Pat DiNizio (principal songwriter, singer, and guitarist), and Mike Mesaros (bass, vocals) - lured listeners in 1985 when its debut album ``Especially for You'' received radio play and made Billboard magazine's year-end Top 100 list. The album featured the popular ``Blood and Roses'' and ``Behind the Wall of Sleep.''

The group's second album, ``Green Thoughts'' (1988), strengthened its appeal with college radio and featured the haunting ``Only a Memory'' and ``House That We Used to Live In.''

In ``11,'' songwriter-singer DiNizio spills more of his introspective, sometimes dark lyrics - many having to do with love and relationships. ``Blue period'' (with guest singer Belinda Carlisle) deals with the break-up of a romance. ``Maria Elena'' is a tribute to the widow of Buddy Holly. ``William Wilson'' is about a reconciliation of a son and father.

In a message of thanks on the lyric sheet, the Smithereens write: ``And remember folks, be good to your parents; they've been good to you!'' The Smithereens, currently touring Europe, play June 7 at Meadowlands in New Jersey; June 8 in Columbia, Md; June 9 in Philadelphia; June 10 at Jones Beach in Long Island. More US dates are likely.

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