Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Album Review: Better Whenever by Elway

When it comes to fun, sing-a-long, punk rock music few bands do it better than Elway from Fort Collins, Colorado. Their previous two Red Scare Industries releases, Delusions and Leave Taking, were both big successes for the band so a lot was expected from new album Better Whenever. 

The first song on Better Whenever is titled Our Lady Of The Thompson River. The songs starts quite interestingly with a church sermon before a guitar riff that Chris McCaughan of The Lawrence Arms would be proud of. The sound of the record is laid out immediately with this opening track, clearly a more thoughtful and mature release than their previous outings. Albuquerque Low continues along this line as Tim Browne sings about the harsh realities of touring. It's a labour of love really, you love doing it and being with your band but it's hard to keep leaving everything behind. Title track Better Whenever really stood out to me on my first listen of the album. It starts out really slow through the first couple of verses before getting to a longer third verse that starts to build and build, culminating in a big shout-a-long ending. Tim's vocals keep you glued throughout the duration of the song as you can sense something big is coming and the anticipation is immense. The song is about getting older at your own pace. Something I and I imagine many other punks really relate to. Next track Lunatic Thirteens is a throwback to the old Elway: mid-tempo paced punk rock with a huge chorus. The production sounds a bit rougher than on the previous Elway albums but this really helps inject a lot of passion into the track. It's a song about struggling to deal with a loss and asking all those questions you won't ever be able to get answers for. The fifth song Shown To The Moon is played in a good mixture of old and new Elway styles with thoughtful restrained verses and a passionate chorus.

The guitar work at the beginning of the sixth song Ten Letter Word really gives a sense of urgency to the track. For a little while at least - after the initial urgent start things are slowed down for more thoughtful and mature punk rock feel. In comparison, Frequent Wind feels like it is destined to be a crowd favourite with its massive ‘gang’ vocal finish. The song goes at a steady pace throughout before exploding at the end with a huge chorus of "Put Your Hands Together If You're Fucked And You Know It, Don't Bother To Live If You're Too Scared To Blow It, Don't Try To Tell Me A Thing Cause I Won't Hear, No-one Belongs Here Like I Belong Here". The eighth track, Third Coast Temple, is a song about being angry with spineless people. This is the first track on the album that features any real punk rock venom and, off the top of my head, I don't really remember hearing this sort of anger on any Elway record. The rest of the band contribute some great harmonies on this song, some soothing oooohs and aaaahs.

Orphan Histories is one of my favourite songs of the year. Frankly it's a masterpiece. The lyrics are thoughtful and honest and are delivered perfectly. The music is just right; it carries the song nicely, switching from punk rock to a more laid back steady sound at any given moment. But the real tour de force is the songs finale. The song slows right down, with the guitars strumming slowly and a faint piece of organ playing in the background, before Tim joins in with some passionate and emotional vocals to complete the song perfectly. Every song should finish like that. The final song on Better Whenever is Delano. This song really feels like it could be a great set closer. Starting out with a plodding rhythm where Tim honestly sings about his life it then builds towards a massive final drunken sing-a-long chorus.

Better Whenever is a real change of pace for Elway. They've always been an honest band and, while this record has a more mature, grown-up appeal to it, it's still the Elway we all know and love. Hopefully they'll be back in the UK soon to promote this awesome album.

Now listening to Somewhere better by Harker