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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Album Review: The Subways - Money And Celebrity

The Subways are a band that has always unapologetically walked the tightrope of being gloriously addictive and mind-numbingly repetitive. They’ve always tended to stick close to the steady, predictable path of verse, chorus, verse and, rather than stray into composing complex structures, focused all their efforts on ramming home just how energetically they can perform each note or shout each lyric. In the past, it’s a tactic that has got them noticed and their hard-work ethic has resulted in them nailing down some serious festival and tour slots. The big push forward, of course, never quite came due to the recorded material never selling in decent numbers. Now, with the release of this, their third album, just when you feel they needed to go for the jugular and try a different approach, maybe put themselves out on a bit of a limb, it’s a a surprise to find them still banging out those same songs, simply tweaked and repackaged.

Tracks like ‘It’s A Party’ and ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’ utilises that same recognisably dynamic, guitar-driven pop-punk that boots in the teeth of the listener, whilst all the time flinging cloyingly predictable lines at you about just how simple things can be if you don’t engage your brain. On a certain level, the usual boy/girl vocal works as well as it ever did with Billy Lunn effectively sticking two fingers up at everything whilst Charlotte Cooper waves her arms manically in the air, egging him on. When the two vocals come together, it’s a riot of carefree singing. The trouble is many of us will have stopped listening by the second chorus. Maybe it’s me that’s grown up or them that haven’t (they really should have by now), but what previously might have passed for youthful enthusiasm, now is all too easily translated as mere immaturity.

‘I Wanna Dance With You’ takes the pace down a notch, with producer Stephen Street softening up the pretty flabby mix even further. Sadly, it all ends up sounding like a cross between The Lightning Seeds and Hard-Fi rather than something new and exciting. With the drab ‘Celebrity’ miserably poking fun at the vacuous – “She doesn’t care about the TV shows / Unless of course it’s about Eastenders / Hollywood is where she wants to go”, ‘Down Our Street’ doo-dooing and skipping along like some clueless Ocean Colour Scene pop fodder and ‘Money’ showing off a duff snare sound that has been muffled into a dull thud, there’s much to find fault with. Thankfully, ‘Popdeath’ wraps itself around you with the vocals intertwined and harmonising nicely, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ kicks up a neat riff and some effortlessly addictive angeldust, and ‘Rumour’ plucks away at a dark series of chords and unravels some true vitriol.

I find myself disappointedly reporting that Money And Celebrity has no spectacular surprises or dangerously emotional forays. Nope, this is the same happy-go-lucky bunch of silly sods you fell in love with six years ago. They remain steadfastly within the limitations of their respective abilities, playing to their strengths, bypassing their obvious weaknesses. In a sense, they are magicians – song after song emerge from their hats, each one instantly recognisable and unsettlingly reminiscent of something you just can’t put your finger on. Ironically, The Subways are still doing what it says on the tin, a fact that will probably be their downfall.

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2011/10/the-subways-money-and-celebrity/

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