The Smithereens, the quirky pop quartet from New Jersey famous for its witty, mostly light-hearted tunes about love and loss, are taking a trip to the dark side of rock with plans for their first concept album -- a project that focuses on the end of the world.
It was bound to happen sometime. No band could forge an 18-year career, like that of the Smithereens, grounded in the sounds of the Kinks, the Beatles and the Who without one day deciding -- as those British rockers did -- to record a concept album.
"It's a difficult proposition," singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio, 42, said of the upcoming album, tentatively titled This Is The Way The World Ends. "It's a cross between [the Who's] Quadrophenia and Tommy, [horror writer] Stephen King's 'The Stand,' Biblical prophecy and all these millennium issues. It's all wrapped up in some sort of a story, which I haven't figured out yet."
DiNizio said recently that he's holed himself up in his New Jersey home to pen songs for his band's first conceptual work, an album he said is based on an Armageddon scenario.
DiNizio -- along with bandmates Jim Babjak (guitar), Mike Mesaros (bass) and Dennis Diken (drums) -- plans to enter the studio to begin laying down tracks in December. At this point, he said he's already written 14 of an anticipated 24 songs for the disc, which will likely be linked together with dialogue and other sound bites. So far, no titles have been released.
The Smithereens first found success on the college-radio scene with songs such as "Blood and Roses" (RealAudio excerpt), from 1987's Especially for You, and "Only A Memory," from 1988's Green Thoughts. The band's music, spread over six full-length albums, displayed a clear affinity for the mod pop of the 1960s British Invasion.
DiNizio said fans of those tunes shouldn't be scared by the prospect of a more intricate, thematic rock album from the band. Similar transformations proved highly successful for their forefathers, such as the Who's mod classic Quadrophenia (1973), the Beatles' legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and the Kinks' acclaimed (The Kinks Are) The Village Green Preservation Society (1969).
"All the songs, hopefully, will stand on their own as individual compositions," DiNizio said. "I want to write it in such a way that the lyrics have meanings on different levels. So that if you're just a pop-music fan, you can hear the lyrics and derive some pleasure or some interest from them, but if you look at it in the context of the album, it's going to mean something else altogether."
Meanwhile, the band also is compiling an album of live tracks to be released before the concept disc.
The upcoming albums will be the first for the Smithereens since they released a greatest-hits compilation, Blown to Smithereens: Best of the Smithereens, and a rarities collection, Attack of the Smithereens, in 1995.