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SMITHEREENS HAVE MERSEY

Band: The Smithereens.

Personnel: Pat DiNizio, lead vocals, guitar; Dennis Diken, drums, vocals; Mike Mesaros, bass; Jim Babjak, guitar.

History: The New Jersey-based band has been toughing it out on the East Coast club circuit for nearly seven years. Friends since high school, the group released an independent EP, “Girls About Town,” in 1980. A far more auspicious piece of vinyl was the group’s next EP, 1983’s “Beauty & Sadness.” Though released on the small Little Ricky label, the record gained a lot of attention, especially in Europe where it become a No. 1 import in several countries. At the same time the group was touring and recording as a backup band for legendary rock ‘n’ roll songwriter Otis Blackwell (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Return to Sender”). After a lot of frustration trying to get a record deal, DiNizio sent a cassette to Enigma Records. In less than a week the group was signed--the director of Enigma’s business affairs turned out to be a longtime Smithereens fan. The group contributed two songs to the film “Dangerously Close,” and the video of “Blood and Roses” gained MTV air play. The Smithereens’ recent debut album, “Especially for You,” was produced by Don Dixon (of R.E.M. fame) and features guest spots by Marshall Crenshaw and Suzanne Vega--who once fired DeNizio when she was his supervisor in an office.

Sound: Anybody who ever owned a Beatles record can immediately relate to the sound of the Smithereens. The tight guitar interplay and vocal harmonies recall Merseybeat at its finest. But the actual feeling of the Smithereens’ songs is far removed from images of happy-go-lucky mop tops. The group’s songbook is filled with foreboding, and pop songs like “Blood and Roses” suggest an atmosphere of back alleys, sitting alone in empty rooms, drinking coffee at 3 a.m. in an all-night diner. Too hard and stinging to be power-pop, too emotionally vibrant to exist in some retro-rock time warp, the Smithereens are one of the better purveyors of the classic garage-rock playing in clubs today.

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Shows: Coach House, tonight; Roxy, Tuesday.


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