Teenage Brit rockers’ exciting, if schizophrenic, debut
It’s the stuff that small-town dreams are made of. Teach your missus bass, aged 16, chuck your little brother the drumsticks and make sure he grows his hair, enter a battle of the bands contest, win a competition to play Glastonbury and then… Blam! You’re leading a devoted fanbase around the country; a fanbase that just can’t get enough of young boys and girls bashing out quality, straight-up-and-down guitar classics.
Because sometimes people don’t really fancy nutty new wave, performance-pop bollocks. Simple is always effective. ‘Young For Eternity’ may not test the brain, but that’s the power of good rock’n’roll – anthemic tunes that can take you somewhere else in seconds and leave you in an aural daze for a few minutes after, until the harsh realities of work, studying and relationships tear back in and fuck you right up again. The Subways know what they’re on Earth to do, and this is it.
The Subways aren’t drenched in 100 per cent-proof filthy rock’n’roll like their American soundalikes The Von Bondies, neither are they insane rock powerhouses who could only have gone one way from birth; that of Jack Daniel’s, studded leather and grimy groupies. No, they’re fresh first-class graduates from the school of hard graft. This is the type of GNVQ performing-arts project which could have gone horribly wrong, but these Welwyn Garden City tykes have pulled it off.
Yes, it often sounds more like AC/DC than anyone could’ve wanted but at other times, like on ‘Somewhere’, everything goes a bit Jesus And Mary Chain-by-way-of-the-Foo Fighters, which is highly unexpected but nonetheless pretty good. It’s the type of dark, summery rock hit that hints at what’s to come for the future, while the rest of the album – which is more excitable and adolescent – shows the band’s tender age and their obvious lust for life. And for each other.
‘Young For Eternity’ is an intoxicating brew of short, sweet garage rock bangers that sound like dusted-off Detroit numbers from 2002, wedged between songs that have a distinctly young British rock edge. ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘At 1am’ are prime examples of the former; stripped-down but souped-up good-time garage rockers that make you want to play air guitar around your front room. As direct as a knee to the nuts (though not as painful), these two buzzing blitzkrieg bops are more bouncy than a weekend with Beyoncé. The moody Brit rock tunes – while not as immediate – seem to suit this trio. ‘Lines Of Light’ is a maudlin mini-epic of just over two minutes, where Charlotte shows she can do sweet, soft romantic backing vocals as well as the unforgiving rock vixen yelps present on ‘City Pavement’ and ‘Rock & Roll Queen’, while ‘With You’ is a pared-down take on Muse’s ‘Plug In Baby’. In case you’re worried, though, the Buzzcocks riffing of ‘Holiday’ proves The Subways are no simpering indie kids. Title track ‘Young For Eternity’ would have been just as effective coming out of the mouths of a band of 30-somethings. It wouldn’t, however, have been as believable.
Were we to mark this piece of rock coursework purely in terms of effort, it would score full marks. However, as they skit from garage riffs to the shoegazey-indie of ‘No Goodbyes’ you can’t help but feel The Subways are stuck between rock and a slightly harder place, and are just a bit confused. It’s nothing a few more years won’t sort out; all they have to do is roll in some mud, get a scandal or three under their belts and they’ll find their niche. Grubby rock urchins they’ll never be, but The Subways will give it a bloody good shot.