The Subways - All Or Nothing

When they throw off the shackles of their influences they make an interesting, energetic and unique little cabal of sound.

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Released 30 Jun 2008 | Infectious | By Bruno Hat | Rating: 3
The Subways - All Or Nothing

Butch Vig's grubby little grunge hands can be felt everywhere on 'All Or Nothing', and his fingerprints are most easily detected on the first quartet of tracks, with 'Girls & Boys', 'Kalifornia', 'Alright' and 'Shake! Shake!' coming together like a four-wheeled rock 'n' roll assault vehicle that's heading straight for ya.

Pick of the bunch is 'Kalifornia', which suggests that Billy Lunn has ripped a page out of Dave Grohl's lyric book while the Foo Fighters frontman was no doubt preoccupied creating his latest Sky Sports soundtrack. It has the tell-tale affirmative Dave 'I'm Spartacus' Grohl message. "I will never be defeated" wails Billy, and you can almost picture him punching a testosterone clenched fist in the air as he does so. Small complaint here but can we please have a moratorium on songs about California? There are loads of other interesting places to write about - like Welwyn Garden City for instance. The subway train slows down and the view gets all scenic for track five 'Move To Newlyn', with the acoustic ballad proving itself unerringly likeable as it traverses the length and breadth of Britain, stopping off everywhere from the picturesque Cornish Coast to the self-proclaimed best city in the world - Glasgow. Cheekily it even offers to "sell the Irish sea to Dublin".

Title track 'All Or Nothing' begins the slow climb back up to full speed with an intro reminiscent of The La's at their seminal best. Sadly the song itself doesn't quite hit the same highs that Lee Mavers managed in his heyday and shivers in the shadow of the comparison. Next up is 'I Won't Let You Down' which unfortunately does let the listener down; to such an extent that you find yourself screwing up your eyes and scanning the sleeve-notes just incase it's a 'Fall Out Boy' cover. The deadly crisis is soon averted with 'Turnaround' which follows, cleansing the listeners ears with an uncomplicated and good old fashioned rigorous rock and roll stomp. 'Obsession' finds us back in the territory of Seattle's favourite scream merchants before Lunn gets all reflective with 'Strawberry Blonde'. 'Always Tomorrow' comes over like England's answer to The Audition, and that is indeed a worrying development, before the album closes with a lush lullaby called 'Lostboy', which deftly plays the old musical trick of leaving them smiling when you go.

The Subways demonstrate on 'All Or Nothing' that they know how to shoehorn a memorable melody into the desired shape. When they throw off the shackles of their influences they make an interesting, energetic and unique little cabal of sound. On tracks where they don't break free, they appear hidebound by their heroes and that's a great pity. As the album title would suggest they have two diverging paths laid out before them. All or nothing. Choose wisely.