Speedway are a band from Scotland, made up of four members, led by a lady singer named Jill. Oh yeah, and they love U2. The official website protests that Speedway “bonded over a mutual affection” for the Irish craftsmen. So just how much does U2 influence Speedway’s music? Well…
Beefy album opener Juggernaut gives a small tip-off of a U2 influence, with haunting, chiming guitars. The rest is big bass distortion and thumping drums. An all together intriguing and very good album opener.
August 2003 landed Speedway in unfamiliar, but not all together unpleasant territory as the UK Top 10 housed their debut single, a double A-side that featured their cover of Genie In A Bottle and the title track from this album. Speedway’s cover of Christina Aguilera‘s song is, frankly, terrible, but that’s spilt milk. Save Yourself meanwhile, hinted early at their appreciation of radio-friendly song structure, a skill that could prove valuable to them in the future.
Second single, Can’t Turn Back boasts the same radio-friendly formula, but lacks the guts of Juggernaut and is extremely bland for a band that proclaim they pledge allegiance to the “rock” genre. The only other song deserved of mention is Overdrive, which has the same punch of Juggernaut, albeit with the hint that Speedway have been reading How To Write A Pop Song For Dummies. Weirdly, it sounds like a pop version of Today by the mighty Smashing Pumpkins.
There are, however, significant negative points to this album. “Rock” band Speedway seem more concerned about sounding like a pop band, perhaps in order to cheat their way to chart success. Nearly all of the songs sound the same, each with that trademark pop structure, and tamed guitars. The big choruses save the dull verses somewhat, but there’s only a certain amount of lifebelts that can be thrown before you have to question why they jumped in the sea in the first place.
Jill Jackson’s voice is persistently beautiful and lends a great deal to what would otherwise be very simple pop songs. However, most of Jackson’s lyrics are packed with clich�s of love, or lack thereof, and quickly grow boring.
A fair debut then – it’s basically harmless pop, it’s not hurting anyone (at least they have some talent, yes, I’m looking at you Gareth Gates), but this could simultaneously be Speedway’s biggest problem. It seems they have tailored their debut to appeal to the largest audience by taming it and making it “pop”. Ironically, the best moments of this album are when Speedway free the guitars from their guarded cages, throw the tacky drum machine to the wolves, and try to sound like a proper band instead of McBusted, the Busted of Scotland.