The Smithereens spent the first few years of their career developing a formula and the next two decades touring behind it. Some have correctly identified the celestial hierarchy of their harmonies as a postcard to the Byrds; I can almost hear Roger McGuinn singing on “A Girl Like You.” With their best days behind them and no major hits on the horizon, the Smithereens continue to tour the country based on the momentum of the solid-gold foundation that they laid via platinum album sales and their superb arena performances of days past. They hail from the strength-in-numbers middle class, and the people they sing about could be anybody: “My girl, she’s extraordinary/ My girl, she’s different from the rest/ She is truth combined with fiction/ A lovely contradiction/ But you’ll only see the part of her she wants you to see.” Sweet, simple melodies, uncluttered by deep thoughts.
Even though the volume of their live performances can approach that of a small nuclear explosion, the Smithereens are among the most inoffensive rock bands I have ever heard. Their cover of the euphemistic “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reactivates not one bit of that old Beatles magic. It is a competent cover that reeks of wholesomeness, and when the Smithereens sing it you believe the song is really about wanting to hold a girl’s hand.
But sometimes — and maybe I’m reading too much into this — the Smithereens will craft a lyric or two that hints at a darker reality. “Woke up on a groovy Tuesday/ Even my hangover’s fine/ Woke up on a groovy Tuesday/ Hung my mind out on the line.” Based on that alone I want to take them out and buy them rounds of drinks — just to see what might come of it.
SMITHEREENS, Anthology, Saturday, June 21, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 619-595-0300. $38 to $45.