Ten years on from the release of their debut album Young For Eternity, it is a testament to The Subways that they are still going strong. The three-piece have had a number of ups and downs since making their breakthrough in 2005 and despite the popularity of their signature tune Rock & Roll Queen – which was used on countless TV programmes and game soundtracks – they have always remained on the fringe of commercial success.
Young For Eternity certainly suggested that The Subways had all the qualities needed to play the biggest stadiums, with its catchy indie pop/rock attracting fans such as Paul Weller and Dave Grohl. They even dealt well with second album syndrome, with 2008’s All Or Nothing reaching the Top 20 in the UK Album Chart, as legendary producer Butch Vig left his distinctive mark on the band.
However, the trio still were unable to make the crossover from cult favourites to major stadium act and third album Money And Celebrity, which was released in 2011, also failed to make any real lasting impression. The record was all a bit by numbers and suggested that The Subways were a band running out of steam – something that can not be said about their new self-titled album.
The signs ahead of the release of the band’s fourth effort were promising from the off, with first single My Heart Is Pumping To A Brand New Beat rediscovering the infectious urgency of their earlier material. The song’s rushing beat lays the foundation for the heavy guitar riff and Lunn’s trademark yelled vocals, as he calls out: “When you hear me on the dancefloor/ my heart is pumping to a brand new beat/ everything I ever cared for.”
It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is just over 30 minutes of high adrenaline fun. I’m In Love And It’s Burning In My Soul continues where My Heart Is Pumping… left off, delivering a monstrous riff – one that was recorded around the time of Youth For Eternity and not used. We Get Around is another unreleased song from when the band were finding their feet, but its defiant tone fits in perfectly with the overall feel of the record.
While the band do sound re-energised on their return, Lunn is not afraid to revisit the past when it comes to his lyrics. As has been the case previously, they remain very personal, talking about old and new relationships, as well as the band’s experiences in the music industry. The latter subject is in fact the basis of Twisted Game, where Lunn takes out some of his frustration on the fickle nature of the industry.
Yet the most effective example of Lunn’s reflective lyrics is laid bare in Taking All The Blame, which sees the frontman exchange vocals with Cooper about the breakdown of their relationship. The dual perspectives give the catchy song a poignant twist, with Lunn apologising for his behaviour when they broke up: “What can I do?/ do you want me on my knees?/ what shall I give?/ one hundred more apologies.”
Elsewhere, The Subways do what they do best, with songs such as Black Letter, Dirty Muddy Paws and Pet Boy mixing singable choruses with lightning quick guitar riffs and thumping beats. Although there are a couple of moments where the band slow things down – the beautifully uplifting Because Of You (Negative Love) being the most obvious example – the record is largely full throttle.
The end result is something that captures everything that made The Subways such a likable band in the first place – and the reason Michael Eavis gave the trio a chance to perform at Glastonbury so early in their career. It may not be perfect, but their self-titled effort manages to deliver their universal tales of love and loss with an honest exuberance that is hard to ignore. On this evidence, The Subways still have more to give.