The Subways may have missed the boat as far as commercial success goes. Their style of guitar-based indie pop/rock, trendy when the band started out nine years ago, has gone out of fashion. After their promising punky first album Young For Eternity they looked likely to make an impact, but the follow-up All Or Nothing, on Warner, a more American-sounding, grungy affair, wasn’t the big hit expected from a major label. After another three-year gap, and now with Cooking Vinyl, their Stephen Street-produced Money And Celebrity could be The Subways’ last shot at the big time.
As its title suggests, the album is themed around our materialistic, fame-obsessed society. Songwriter Billy Lunn’s lyrics are not exactly subtle but they make their point directly, while the music is equally accessible if lacking originality. The 11 shortish songs are instantly appealing with catchy tunes and sing-along choruses but not always sufficiently interesting to bear repeated listens.
The high-octane opener It’s A Party is one of the strongest tracks, capturing a heady adrenaline buzz, with nicely complementary male/female harmonies on the chorus from Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper. It’s not clear if lyrics like “It’s a party, don’t you know it don’t get much better / We gonna make it such an awesome party” reflect good clean fun or escapist hedonism.
The equally celebratory first single We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time is another up tempo number, with a slightly more abrasive feel from Lunn’s punky chord changes and Josh Morgan’s heavy drumming. “Not gonna be the one to stay inside alone / Not gonna be the one to sit there by the phone” Lunn sings defiantly.
Celebrity is an attack on the vacuousness of Big Brother tabloid culture where talentless wannabes will do anything to get their 15 minutes of fame and then are forgotten:. “She wants to ride in a chauffeur car / Her photograph in the morning papers.” Popdeath is a more poignant account of a live fast and die young, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle, the latest casualty of which we have seen all too recently.
Like I Love You cranks up the guitar in a grungy display of desperate, one-sided love: “Why you kill me, kill me and mistreat me baby / No one loves you quite like I love you.” Money is a growling, bass-driven warning against the distraction of gold, while Down Our Street marks a change of tone with its jaunty account of the crazy goings on in a noisy road in which behind “Every door something more to talk about”.
Rumour focuses on the destructiveness of malicious gossip in a schadenfreude society, and Friday expresses the end-of-week release of frustration for someone in a dead-end job: “I got a reason and I’m gonna make it my night / Ain’t gonna be a nothing anymore.”
While it contains a few filler songs, this is a fun album to listen to, bursting with irrepressible energy. The Subways deserve a bit more money and celebrity.