Review: ‘Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough’ Perfectly Blends Humor & Sincerity
It’s been nearly a full decade since Smith & Burrows released their first album. When Editors frontman Tom Smith joined up with Andy Burrows for a holiday album, fans of both men may have been shocked but pleasantly surprised. Funny Looking Angels remains a charming and unique take on Christmas, but only being relevant for one month of the year would leave fans of the duo wanting more to enjoy for those other 11 months. Thankfully, at long last, Smith & Burrows have just released their second album, cheekily titled Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough. (The title is a nod to Gibson’s old slogan.) They recorded it in late summer 2019 with producer Jacquire King in Nashville, Tennessee.
When Tom and Andy get together, the musical result is something unique from the songs they create separately. This may be more true of Tom, though: Editors is known for their serious, moody, profound music, firmly within the alternative genre, yet ranging from post-punk revival to dark wave. Andy comes from a similar background of post-punk and indie rock, both in Razorlight and We Are Scientists. But his solo work has generally felt warmer, with acoustic guitar and gentle pop melodies.
On Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough, Andy’s influence feels stronger. For Tom, this album presents a whole new side to him, one that’s more loose and carefree than what we typically see in Editors. This record largely effuses a quality of warmth and comfort. It’s like being with your closest friends, whether that’s at home or out on the town. Indeed, Tom and Andy’s genuine friendship shines through here, giving the songs intimacy and a good bit of fun.
Indeed, “fun” is a fair way to describe several tracks here. Songs like “Spaghetti” and “Straight Up Like A Mohican” sound fun, even when the lyrics circle around ardent topics. But then tracks like “Buccaneer Rum Jum” and “Bottle Tops” move straight into novelty song territory. They’re almost joke songs, complete with tropical sounds and wholly unserious vocal parts. Even so, they’re actually both perfectly listenable — and I’m saying this as someone who’s not all that into novelty songs. From the very first listen, I enjoyed “Buccaneer Rum Jum” with all seriousness; it’s a strong enough song that its merit shines through the silliness. “Bottle Tops” may take a few more listens to take it seriously — it goes pretty hard with its cartoonish vibes — yet it’s also a joy to hear.
However, Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough also offers songs that are more earnest and contemplative. The singles “Old TV Shows” and “Parliament Hill” both fall into this category, drawing up nostalgia and feelings of goodwill despite some bittersweet memories. The duo have also shared songs of heartbreak, though generally from a lighter perspective. “I Want You Back In My Life,” “Aimee Move On,” and “Too Late” are each highlights surrounding themes of love and breakups. They aren’t weepy or emotional, though; the lyrics are matter-of-fact and accepting, even occasionally a bit brazen.
Mixing these different tones together is “All The Best Moves.” Not only was this the first song we heard, back in November 2018 when Smith & Burrows debuted it live, it was also the lead single last June. Naturally, it serves as a great starting point to kick off the album. It’s instant and infectious, but it also sets up listeners for all the different sounds and themes that will arise over the subsequent nine songs. It balances just enough fun, heart, flippancy, and energy to get fans in the mood for the rest of the album.
Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough is refreshing and light, never taking itself too seriously, even when it dives into deeper themes. It’s often escapist, especially given the ongoing pandemic it was unfortunately released in; a few songs will whisk you away to tropical islands, while others will recall warm rooms filled with all your closest friends. Alas, while those scenarios will have to wait in real life, this album conjures up the vibes we’re hoping to experience more of… hopefully by the end summer or early fall.
All in all, Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough is a charming, breezy album that balances comedy with sincerity. It may be different for those of us coming from the Editors-fans-side of the duo, but it’s joyous and refreshing, and exactly what we need right now.
Track by Track
“All The Best Moves” – The first song fans heard from the album, Smith & Burrows originally debuted “All The Best Moves” back in November 2018 when they performed it live. It was a lively and catchy song, and the album version here captures that same energy. Acoustic guitar drives the song, with Tom singing lead on the verses. He describes a rather apathetic guy who avoids going out and showing off his sick moves. Instead, he stays inside, thinking nothing is better or worse; it’s all the same. On the choruses, Tom and Andy trade lines, like a conversation between Tom’s character and his shoulder devil. “All The Best Moves” is a sparkling song, even if the peppy music masks dispirited lyrics.
“Buccaneer Rum Jum” – Andy warned us last year that “Buccaneer Rum Jum” would have a novelty song vibe, and he wasn’t wrong. Even so, this track as also undeniably enjoyable. It opens with tropical island sounds, echos of vacationers in the background. Andy takes the lead throughout, singing low on the verses before belting out an impactful chorus. He pleads and asks, “Pass the mirror to me, is there someone in there, someone I want to be?” The chorus ends with the bleak line, “Forever falling back down to earth, to the bottom of the sea.” Lyrically it’s pretty heavy, despite how buoyant the song otherwise sounds. Once we’re all vaccinated, this is a song I’d wanted to play on a sandy beach or cruise around the Caribbean.
“Spaghetti” – Smith & Burrows just debuted “Spaghetti” in an acoustic performance two days ago, and it was quite faithful to the album version here. It’s a skippy song with a bright sound and frenzied pace. Tom Smith wrote it — he teased its lyrics back in August 2019 — and sings lead here, rapidly spitting out lyrics that walk the line between charmingly funny and somewhat sardonic. By the time we get to the chorus, though, Tom uses pasta for a metaphor as he brags about the crown he wears. It’s a different sound for him, but it’s also irresistibly fun.
“Old TV Shows” – Following three upbeat songs, “Old TV Shows” changes direction, offering something more intimate and contemplative. Over warm acoustic guitar, Andy sings the verses, setting us up for some heartbreak. Tom cuts in to sing the chorus, belting about faded memories playing like old TV shows (like Top of the Pops). Chiming piano fills out the sound, while falsetto “la la la” vocals lend it a cheerier mood. It’s a sweet, comforting song, and one of the rare serious moments on the album.
“Parliament Hill” – Track number five continues that more serious mood. Over a heartbeat-like pulse and soft piano, Tom croons the first verse, offering sympathy to someone who can’t seem to find peace and quiet. Andy takes over on the chorus, singing low about putting heart into it and finding the light in spite of it all. The second verse goes back to Tom, this time offering companionship. He joins Andy on the next chorus, building up the layers of the song and adding a lightness to the mood. “Parliament Hill” is a gentle and sweet song that improves with each listen.
“Bottle Tops” – Like “Buccaneer Rum Jum,” “Bottle Tops” is another of Andy’s novelty songs. This one, though, is a bit more jokey, from the first beat of the drum machine and the falsetto “do do do”s. Tom sings a low, winding, and hilarious hook — ending with a careless “whatever!” — before Andy comes in for the verses. Alongside a chugging acoustic guitar and crescendoing atmosphere, he sings about going on vacation, making temporary friends there, and accidentally finding love. Tom takes on the chorus, saying how he’ll be such a happy man if he can be her one and only. That silly hook from before reminds us this tropical song isn’t that serious, and Andy confirms the new relationship isn’t either by the second verse. “Bottle Tops” is a surprising track, but it grows more delightful with each listen.
“I Want You Back In My Life” – Though somewhat funny itself, “I Want You Back In My Life” moves us back into a set of more serious songs. Against a vibrant backdrop of acoustic guitar, piano, and handclaps, Tom paints a scene of him taking a long walk in the snow one unusually cold April day. He offers a hilarious but philosophical line, singing, “I don’t feel no love anymore, but then I can’t feel my toes, so what the hell do I know?” The chorus jumps out with even more energy, Tom wanting less time to himself and more time with the loved one he’s missing. Andy sings harmony, then violin at the end of the chorus further sweetens the sound. The post-chorus is a perfect singalong of wanting to love somebody, anybody.
“Aimee Move On” – Switching gears, “Aimee Move On” opens with some swanky sounds fit for a lounge. But then the beat drops, and we get a tune that’s pulsing and impassioned. Tom takes the lead, painting a scene of a couple whose relationship is falling apart. The chorus takes it to a new level as Tom belts, “I was the worst, I was the best, no I was the best and the worst and the rest!” and admits to being a fool. Andy chimes in at the chorus’s end, gently crooning the title to Aimee. The song closes with that nightlife vibe that opened it. There’s something classic about “Aimee Move On” — maybe a bit of ’60s soul pop — making it an instant highlight.
“Too Late” – Quickly picked acoustic guitar kicks off “Too Late” before Tom comes in with the verse. He draws up feelings of a relationship ending and him just wanting one more peek into his future before it does. The notes of the guitar create tension by the end of the verse, but then the chorus hits, big and bright. Andy and Tom sing “Please, we don’t have forever. Play a song that keeps us together.” It’s another irresistible song that’s perfect for singing along with.
“Straight Up Like A Mohican” – Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough closes with the most thoroughly integrated song of the album. On “Straight Up Like A Mohican,” Tom and Andy take turns singing lines of the verses, creating the impression that they’re now one and the same. They harmonize together on the barely-restrained pre-chorus, then take turns again once the grand chorus hits. This song has a particularly bombastic feeling, but its sudden end will leave you wishing there was at least one more song on the album.
Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough Score: 4.5/5
Highlights on Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough include: “All The Best Moves,” “Buccaneer Rum Jum,” “Spaghetti,” “I Want You Back In My Life,” “Aimee Move On,” and “Too Late.”
You can stream or buy Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough from all the major music providers here.