21st May, 2022
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Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Drinking with My Smoking Friends by Allday

Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Drinking with My Smoking Friends by Allday

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series:
Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better

Allday’s fourth and latest album, Drinking With My Smoking Friends, is a masterful blur of comfort and uncertainty. It’s both playful and profound, inspired and pioneering. It floats above genre and subject matter like a fuzzy dream, and in my opinion, it is a perfect sequel off the back of his last album, Starry Night Over The Phone.

Void

Allday? Singing??? He’s done it before. When this album came out, the media talked like it was a shock to the genre, but it’s not. This album makes perfect sense after Starry Night. Allday has been leaning toward indie rock for years. As Triple J said, ‘he’s always been a pop star in hip hop’s clothing’.

This album’s value and strength lie in its authenticity. This song kickstarts an album full of acoustic guitar and those imperfect, sometimes starkly off-key vocals which add to the overall raw honesty and emotion of DWMSF. He doesn’t rap at all in this first song, signalling a more dedicated shift of genre, which I think he achieves wonderfully in his own way.

This track was written in 2020, and I think that’s obvious. This is very much an album of its time. This song sounds like the blur of lockdown and a reminder that the hard times are temporary. He wrote this track with Simon Lam, the same guy who produced Starry Night Over The Phone. That album was quintessential for the point of life I was at in 2019 when it came out, and I can say the same for this album now.

Cup of Tea in the Bath

I knew that I’d love this song just from the title. Allday is and always has been a master of telling stories through observation. He’s able to exacerbate a strong thick feeling through simple lines such as ‘She lives in a place with a lean, she takes a long bath drinking a cup of tea, well the weather in town’ really not her thing’. This album, in that sense, is basically a ransom letter, using ordinary moments as magazine clippings, all stuck together with happy reminiscent acoustic guitar and the blurred monotony of a Melbourne lockdown.

Stolen Cars

Allday has said that this song is about the optimism of young love – finding someone whose company you enjoy so much that you want to run away with them and start a new life and live in the feeling forever. This album was going to be a concept album of sorts, but Allday changed his mind. Stolen Cars, and track number 7, Fast Ride, were going to tell an outrageous Bonnie and Clyde story of love and crime.

I’ve been listening to the song, assuming that it was about finally getting out of lockdown, though, so take that as you will. It reminds me of Blinding Lights by The Weeknd or Scream Drive Faster by Laurel, for obvious reasons. The 80’s synth-pop vibes make the autotuned vocal at home.

Door

This is definitely my most listened to track of the album. I love the knocking sound at the start; the rhythm and melody are very happy and upbeat. The verses are rap-esque, and the whole vibe is very ‘it is what it is.’ It’s a very fun song.

“You’re not one to worry about what is coming
Or maybe that’s a mask you wear like Batman, Robin
Skidding in a Batmobile all over Gotham
High enough to fly over our problems
Need a spacesuit, you know what they say too
When you’re going through hell, just go straight through
I’ll always keep a place for you, isn’t it a great view?
Looking at you is easy on the eyes”
The Paris End of Collins St

This song is the centrepiece of the album and my favourite piece on it. The anticipation that builds in my heart when I’m driving home from work, and it starts playing is insane. Something about the way he says ’a very big jacket for a very small lady’ just scratches my brain right. I like it cause it’s one of those songs that are like…what does this even mean? But it really is just a patchwork of ordinary moments ran across the strings of a 90’s sounding guitar riff.

“I’m high on MDMA in Bunnings
I’m holding hands with the guy in the paint section
I don’t wanna go to the art gallery and pretend that I get it
I wanna watch movies with happy endings, alright”
After All This Time

This was the first song released from this album, and it was absolutely blasted on Triple J for the latter half of the year, so it’s hard to give a fair review. When I first heard it, I noted that it did sound quite different to the Allday I know and love…but didn’t think much else about it. I know all the words and the lyrics are written well, the guitar is warm and reminiscent – it almost sounds like a theme song to some Y2K show. I moved back to my hometown halfway through last year, and in that sense, it is very applicable lyrically to the idea of returning to your hometown.

In essence, it’s not fair to judge a book by its cover. It also not fair to judge an album by its first single. That said, unless someone is a die-hard fan, they’re going to judge it by its first single, so pick a better cover. I’m constantly wondering why an artist chose any particular song as the first single and leave what seems like the obvious gem of the album hidden.

Fast Ride

The guitar work on this track is done by Joji Malani, the recent ex-guitarist of Gang of Youths. So, naturally, I love this song. The spoken-word deadpan kind of rap in the verses reminds me of something, but I can’t figure out what. Most of the album feels like that, actually. The first verse is so intriguing, and the instrumental in the courses is nothing short of magic. It’s one of the strongest songs on the album in terms of instrumental flow. This is the one I’d love to sing along to at a festival.

“Where we come from there’s a wall of fire
The girls are getting dressed to kill
And if you stay, there’s a procession down the esplanade
Boys and their silver chains
But I don’t like you for your smoky eyes
I don’t believe in this rotting American dream
These days it’s hard to make an honest buck”
Bright

Naturally, this album needed a slow, sombre love ballad. Bright is just that. It reminds me of a song from his last album, ‘Don’t Wanna Push You Away Anymore’, except a grown-up, cleaned up version. There’s an effortless piano progression, and then eventually, the drums and guitar pick up, but not obnoxiously.

I appreciate that it’s an understated ballad; however, I would like it if there was even one more prominent and exciting element. Allday’s rough vocals feel quite dissonant to the vibe of the instrumental, but the lyrics are lovely. I’d love if this song had a bit more of an ebb and flow, but I love the melody, especially in and before the bridge.

Joji was also involved in this track, and of course, it shows in terms of the dreamy calm atmosphere. It’s hard to explain; I just think this song is almost great; it’s like you couldn’t remember the last word of your sentence.

Butterfly Sky

The opening line hooks me from the word go. I love the melody; it’s comforting, flowing and emotional. I love the backup vocals and the glittery melancholy atmosphere of the music. Unlike the previous song, I think that his vocals match the song. However, I’d love to hear a cover done by someone with a more smooth voice, just out of curiosity.

“Don’t say the truth, tell me a lie that feels good
I’m gonna wield you like a sword
I’m gonna be your razor blade
Just like a child, there will be tears of laughter
And in the nights of long, hot summer when you can’t sleep
Call my name”
Spin

This is another of my favourites. It’s produced by Chris Collins, who produces most of Ruby Feild’s music. It’s a great track to finish the album with. It feels very conclusionary. Once again, he nails the first verse. There’s also violin in this track, which of course, I love. The melody is comforting, simple, and summarising. Perhaps this should have been the first single.

Track Ranking:
  1. The Paris End of Collins St
  2. Spin
  3. Door
  4. Cup of Tea in the Bath
  5. Fast Ride
  6. Butterfly Sky
  7. Stolen Cars
  8. Void
  9. After All This Time
  10. Bright

“A very big jacket for a very small lady,”

Tyneesha Williams

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