Side projects are a generally hit-and-miss affair, and invariably indulgent. Thankfully, Foxing man Conor Murphy’s indulgences on Smidley’s self-titled debut simply allows him to explore territories he couldn’t with his main project.
There are still elements of emo and indie-rock on show, but in general, it’s a lot simpler and easier to digest than Foxing’s layered, post-rock-influenced sound. This isn’t a criticism: Smidley lets Murphy do something different, and the album embraces a number of influences such as power-pop (‘Pink Gallo’) and alt-country (‘Dead Retriever’). There’s also smatterings of garage-rock on ‘Hell’, which pulls off a simple instrumental hook; and the heavier ‘Power Word Kill’, which breaks down into an enjoyable synth-led section.
The delightfully wry ‘No One Likes You’ successfully combines dream-pop influences with jagged guitars; while ‘Fuck This’ is so enjoyable, upbeat and fun that a line like “listening to EDM and not giving a fuck” doesn’t induce a wince.
There are a number of acoustic ballads in the form ‘It Doesn’t Tear Me Up’ and ‘Milkshake’, with the latter being the most noticeable for its beautifully understated quasi-woodwind section. However, these ballads distract from the more upbeat tracks that take Smidley so far away from Foxing.
‘Under the Table’ brings in a bigger emo influence; slow and understated. Yet unlike the aforementioned ballads, it’s well executed due its emotional depth and inclusion of harsher instrumentation.
Smidley’s debut is a great foray into other genres for Murphy, and there’s nothing attempted here that doesn’t work. It would’ve perhaps been better to see certain areas explored further, but as it stands, ‘Smidley’ is an enjoyable listen for anyone, Foxing fan or not.
‘Smidley’ by Smidley is out now on Triple Crown Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)