The Smithereens made their live debut in March 1980 at a place called Englander’s in Hillside, N.J. A lineup change soon followed when bassist Ken Jones was moved to guitar in favor of Mike Mesaros, a Diken friend since grade school. But after some gigs as a five piece, it was clear that another shakeup was needed, and this time Jones was ousted.
During the next five years, DiNizio, Diken, Babjak and Mesaros gigged near home and abroad whenever they could, released the EPs Girls About Town (1980) and Beauty and Sadness (1983) and for a brief time served as the backing band for acclaimed songwriter Otis Blackwell.
Their new album was recorded at Fidelitorium in North Carolina and at DiNizio’s home in Scotch Plains. It’s the seventh Smithereens album of original material and the first all-new effort since God Save The Smithereens in 1999. It’s no secret that the music industry has changed radically since then. But just like Stallone’s strong-willed boxer in the last installment of the Rocky movie franchise, the older, wiser, experienced and accomplished Smithereens are out to show anyone and everyone they still have what it takes to go the distance.
And on Smithereens 2011, the band members do just that. There is DiNizio’s deep, rich voice. Then you have Babjak’s gutsy, gung-ho guitar solos and Diken’s deft, diligent drum work. And you can’t miss Jornacion’s fluid, detailed bass lines. They still have the chops.