EP: Joely Smith – ‘that’s when gd neighbours become gd friends’

thats when gd neighbours become gd friends, the wonderfully titled EP of demos from Joely Smith (usually found playing with London-based indie/pop-punk band adults) seems to have arrived almost by accident. For Smith, the process of recording these demos allowed her to let go of a group of songs which she didn’t feel necessarily fit with the sound of her band and declare them “finished”. For us listeners, Smith’s need to record is a gift – this EP is beautiful.

This might not be a universal experience, but there’s something deeply nostalgic about listening to demos – at least there is for anyone who spent their teenage years trawling through social media/pre-social media fan boards/whatever came before that (tapes passed round the playground?! Delete according to generation) for any sign of ‘lost’ recordings from their favourite bands; scratchy demos of songs which existed in far more polished and famous versions elsewhere. The act of listening to something half-formed, a glimpse into the process of writing your favourite songs, has a magical quality all of its own. That’s not to say that any of the songs in this EP sound unfinished or half-formed – quite the opposite is true – but that the aural aesthetic of demos carries an inherent warmth and charm. When that aesthetic is married to the down-played charisma of song-writing like Smith’s, the end results are rather magnetic.

Though the music here differs distinctly from adults, the same sense of humour and warmth runs through both projects. The EP opens with ‘Womankind’, a lofi hug of a tune. A fuzzy guitar and voice are joined, after the introduction, by bass, drums and a second guitar line (all played by Smith) and the whole thing comes together in a manner reminiscent of Graham Coxon’s solo work – a punk sound distilled through a warm and unassuming persona; the edges taken off, aggression stripped out, but the heart remaining very much in place.

Smith has explained the EP as consisting of songs which “didn’t fit within the adults sound“, and the evidence of that is in the eclecticism on show here. ‘Notice’ is filled out with a lengthy synth-led instrumental passage in the middle (which is not nearly as ‘prog’ as that description makes it sound), and there’s shades of ‘80s alternative bands like Beat Happening to songs like ‘Pale’ and ‘Light’. There’s something distinctly ‘90s about the EP as a whole, though – the guitar fuzz and mellow vocal delivery recall Pavement, the song ‘Light’ earns comparison to some of Pixies’ more melodic and less frantic work (‘Hear Comes Your Mind’ comes to … err … mind), and the melodic sensibility of Brit-pop bands like Elastica and Blur (the latter in their less pop moments) is present throughout. 

Smith has declared no intention whatsoever to perform these songs live, and no ambition to work further on solo material once she’s able to resume playing regularly with adults. So, we’ll have to be grateful for what we’ve got: a six track EP which manages to be both ambitious and lo-fi, varied but cohesive in sound, funny and sad (sometimes simultaneously). 

Listen to that’s when gd neighbours become gd friends on bandcamp now:

Gregory Metcalfe
@GregorysParty

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