The Subways – [Album]

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Some things are guaranteed to make your blood pressure go up. According to every piece of literature available, too much salt is guaranteed to register a pulmonary increase, but what’s lesser-known is that the right combination of hard-soft dynamics, girl-and-boy harmonies and huge overdriven guitars in just the right spots—not unlike the combination The Subways play with reckless abandon on All Or Nothing—will get blood pumping too fast too.

From the very first arpeggiated guitar build of “Girls & Boys,” listeners know they’re in for a faster, potentially rougher ride than they got from "Rock & Roll Queen" a couple of years ago, but no preparation is enough for when Billy Lunn hits listeners squarely between the eyes with a wall of molten, overdriven guitars.

Because of that initial assault and the way it’s delivered, there’s no doubt that there’s a touch of The Pixies in The Subways’ genetic code, but as the record progresses and bassist Charlotte Cooper’s sweet and soothing voice consistently reappears to save listeners from Lunn’s tirades, she also inadvertently delivers All Or Nothing into the wide world of pop and removes all doubt at the possibility of an affinity for the give and take that first brought Black Francis and Kim Deal kudos.

Not only do The Subways make use of the same dynamic shifting as one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time, they also turn it into a formula from which they never deviate through the entire runtime of All Or Nothing. Because of this, it could be said that the group is rather mawkish or, worse, a one-tick pony but, in fact, being single-minded works well for this band on their debut. Rather than allow for the possibility of a weak or misguided note to filter through, producer Butch Vig has set The Subways up to straddle the line between rough and tumble, grunge-ish postpunk and sweetly adorned indie crunch (think about the possible progeny of a Pixies and Alexisonfire love affair and you’re on the right track)—even though they’re never distracted from the loud verse/sweet chorus/loud verse structure, All Or Nothing never gets dull because listeners can’t wait to see what they do next and still aren’t disappointed when it turns out to be the same thing. Granted, there’s no doubt that The Subways will have to learn a few more tricks before they walk into the studio again but, for an introductory meeting with audiences, All Or Nothing is a respectable effort.


The Subways – All Or Nothing is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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