Following the departure of drummer and founding member Josh Morgan, and an eight years gap between albums, comes The Subways fifth offering Uncertain Joys (Alcopop! Records). A lot has happened during this time, the dreaded c word notwithstanding, frontman Billy Lunn took three years out to study English at Cambridge University. The personal and personnel changes refreshed the band, with the introduction of synthesisers and pop to their brand of indie rock resulting in a textured and more interesting sound.
‘Love Waiting On You’ is a jolly little number with effervescent flourishes of synth, a great marriage between crunching chords and an upbeat pop melody. The title track is a triumph, with a bouncy melody straight from the pages of eighties pop, eased along by the silky smooth backing vocals of bass and keyboard player Charlotte Cooper. It is not just a collage of synths though, as in ‘Lavender Amelie’ they are in the background and complemented by a lush acoustic melody and a soft, XTC style hook.
They are still moments of no frills rock n’ roll, but it is tempered by the lighter moments and stands out all the more for it. The loud love letter to music ‘Black Wax’ blows away the cobwebs, with its punchy, almost primal riff reminiscent of Muse’s big rocker ‘Psycho’. The brash ‘Fight’, about standing up for the oppressed, is a spikey little number with a punk-like simplicity. ‘The Devil and Me’ motors along thanks to its nimble bassline and the propulsive drum beat of new member Camille Phillips. This is followed by the measured pace, alternative sound and subdued melancholia of ‘Joli Coeur’ – showcasing the balance on show and the progress made since the simpler, meat and potatoes like indie of their self-titled album eight years ago.
With Uncertain Joys, The Subways have come on leaps and bounds, mixing bold synths and bouncy pop to their straightforward Indie Rock to great effect.
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8 / 10