A lot can change in eight years, and that was certainly true for the roots-rock supergroup Golden Smog, a coalition of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and several Minneapolis alt-rockers, including Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum guitarist Dan Murphy, and Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run. The Jayhawks and the Westies broke up, Soul Asylum nearly did, and Johnson moved to Spain. But the bonds of friendship kept the Smog thick, eventually resulting in Another Fine Day, the group's first outing since 1998's Weird Tales.
For all the pleasures of its previous albums, Golden Smog has always been a victim of its side-project status—the easygoing, loose-knit feel helped out the vibe, but also highlighted the fact that, at the end of the day, these guys had to get back to their real bands. And so The Jayhawks' decision to pursue other interests works directly to Fine Day's benefit: This is the other interest. Louris' songwriting style permeates the record—he co-wrote 11 of the 15 songs. Still, a certain mellow collaborative spirit guides things. Some songs are clearly stamped as a particular musician's creation, like Murphy's rocked-up "Hurricane," but in general, Fine Day seems like a true band project in a way no previous Golden Smog disc has.
Given the talent assembled, displays of pop gorgeousness are a given. The parent-to-child love song "Cure For This" is especially lovely, as are the Jayhawks-esque openers "You Make It Easy" and "Another Fine Day." There are few outright stumbles—though "Corvette"'s roots as a car-commercial soundtrack are all too obvious—but much of the record seems perfunctory. Songs like "Beautiful Mind" and "Long Time Ago" are like alt-country versions of Miss America runner-ups: pretty and polished, but ultimately forgettable. There's plenty of gold here, but also too much smog.