Anyone remember The Subways? The Welwyn Garden City trio burst out in 2005 when they released their certified gold debut Young for Eternity, a brilliant, bolshy, boisterous record that captured the spirit of youthful exuberance through raucous rock ‘n’ roll. Since then they’ve been somewhat scarce, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d fallen off the face of the earth.
But this missing, long-lost group have now forced themselves back into the fold, playing a rammed gig tonight – unsurprising if you know anything about this band’s rabid cult following – at Foundry in the heart of Sheffield University. This underappreciated group are currently touring in support of their third album, Money and Celebrity, and are given a golden chance to prove to their critics and doubters that they still have what it takes to make fun and fresh rock music.
Sadly, much as I regret not being able to give a fairytale verdict, the band really can’t boast being a major player in the rock game anymore. Not just commercially, but artistically they showcase a bunch of new songs that are at best dated, but a more honest term would be boring.
Which isn’t to say that the band has lost any of their ability to deliver a tight performance, and a lot of the disappointment in their new material is softened by the fact that they play well and loudly to a die-hard crowd of genuine fans. But despite the well wishes of the crowd, the divide between the new and the old material is painfully obvious, with Billy Lunn almost apologetic and sheepish to be telling the fans to expect new tracks. Songs from Money and Celebrity are played too fast and noisily to let the set become turgid and heavy, but have a complete lack of melody and unpredictability that made their first album, and parts of their interesting second album, so memorable. It’s like they chucked in all the same ingredients as before, but just forgot to turn the oven on.
Ultimately, it is the fact that their set is streaked through with these desperately bland moments that threatens to pull the whole gig down. Unsurprisingly, it’s the heyday tracks that keep it afloat, with the spikier songs such as ‘At 1am’ and ‘With You’ contrasting nicely with the anthemic sing-along ‘Mary’.
These songs sadly act as a reminder of what they once were, and it really seems that at this stage of their career, the band are in need of an enormous stroke of luck or a complete departure from their current sound if they want to keep on thrilling audiences.