Every truly great album has a story behind it. The narrative that accompanies the fantastic debut LP from Glasgow’s Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes — is one of the most compelling I’ve ever heard.

All 12 songs on the record, which comes out January 29 via France-based Hidden Bay Records, were written by the band’s frontman Jonny Shitbag. His compact, acerbic songwriting style points to a talented artist worth following, but there’s one little problem: no one knows where Jonny Shitbag is, having vanished suddenly in 2017.

So what’s a band to do?  Armed only with some demo recordings and scribbled lyrics and chords, the aforementioned Smokes —  Curls, Traff and TJ — set out to complete the work of their absent friend.

The songs reflect an artist with many sides, with youthful pop innocence tinged with darkness in lead track “Neighbourhoods,” extending to self doubt, relationship problems and writer’s block to dirty punk rage on songs like “Big and Small” and “Clean”. And in the final act, there’s a sense of yearning for those times past, for solitude and silence.

And then there’s the blisteringly-melodic lead single, “The Song 1-1,” a joyous outburst of pop-punk that incorporates many of the best traits: a frenetic, fuzzy rock sound with layered harmonies and incisive songwriting.

While much of the focus has been on Jonny Shitbag, full credit goes to his faithful Smokes for taking the “scribbled lyrics and chords” and transforming them into a complete album that gets better upon repeated listens. But more importantly, they’ve created a lasting tribute to and legacy for their missing frontman. I’d like to think he’s hiding out somewhere writing the follow-up to You Could Not Have Given the Slightest of Fucks.

Listen to a stream of the album below (and pre-order the album via Bandcamp ahead of its January 29 release here):

 

Album art (by Manon Raupp)

Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes -- You Could

Tracklisting

  1. Neighbourhoods
  2. Jesus or George
  3. Bedtime
  4. Book
  5. The Song 1-1
  6. Right Here
  7. Kevin
  8. Big and Small
  9. Mints
  10. Clean
  11. Still Wet
  12. The Forest