Wednesday, 9 July 2008

ALBUM: The Subways - All or Nothing (Warner Bros Records)

For anyone out there who loved ‘Young For Eternity,’ you’ll be pretty damn pleased because for the greater part ‘All or Nothing’ is more of the same – the relentlessly catchy albeit fairly simple riffs and the general good fun and vivacity. Basically, if you’re over 25 then it’s pretty likely this won’t be your thing but if you’re not over that hill yet then ‘All or Nothing’ is all the fun bits of rock music compressed into 35 minutes – the almost hair metal of the addictive ‘Kalifornia’ and ‘Shake! Shake!’ and single ‘Alright’ with its contagious pop punk hook begging you to sing along.

Butch Vig’s production definitely deserves some credit here – the guy behind Nevermind, Siamese Dream and every Garbage record’s trademark wall of sound thing works well for The Subways, making their songs sound heavier and more distorted, capturing more of the wild energy of their live performances than their previous album did. Nevertheless, the acoustic guitar based softer tracks like ‘Strawberry Blonde’ where Billy Lunn sounds so sweet he could almost be a choirboy prove that The Subways haven’t decided to throw in the towel and lose their innocence quite yet, and Billy and Charlotte’s harmonies remain as lovely as ever.

There are hints that The Subways have matured a little since ‘Young For Eternity.’ Despite their tendency for one line or even one word choruses, ‘Move To Newlyn,’ another ballad-like track shows a surprising amount of lyrical dexterity, with its chorus of ‘my cousin Rick he still believes/there’s a world he’s yet to see/carry on or fade away/eventually there comes a day/we’ll all see we are the same but different things we choose to say.’ Opener ‘Girls and Boys’ is also unconventionally complex in its arrangement (for The Subways), sacrificing its ability to be immediately catchy but suggesting that there might be a secret ambition to make more than just three chord soft-grunge rockers.

‘All or Nothing’ is a good album and definitely one that you’ll listen to over and over again after you get it but whether you’ll still be listening to it in a month is a different question. Still, there are occasional clues that make it seem not only that The Subways have dodged the sophomore slump but that album no. 3 could be even better.

Ollie Khakwani