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The Subways

It would be easy to suggest The SUBWAYS as just another underground trio – pun intended! – but Hertfordshire’s answer to heroes ASH, GREEN DAY or PIXIES were, on the surface, Welwyn Garden City’s best hopes since New Wave of New Wave combo S*M*A*S*H, and er… Anthrax – no, not that one.
Around since 2002 as hot-to-trot Mustardseed, teenagers Billy Lunn (vocals/guitar), his girlfriend Charlotte Cooper (bass/vocals) and – regardless of different surnames – Billy’s brother Josh Morgan (drums), grew up on the sounds of RAMONES, AC/DC and OASIS streaming from their parent’s stereos; incidentally, Lunn took his mother’s maiden name.
The model of net-literate youth, The SUBWAYS hooked onto the mainline to success via their own website and relentless self-promotion. An off-the-cuff decision to send in one of their many demos to Glastonbury organiser, Michael Eavis, duly won themselves a slot on the festival’s “Other Stage”. Who else but John Peel would pledge solidarity with their cause by airing their classy October 2004 debut for Transgressive Records, `1 AM’; tragically, the iconic DJ died the same month.
Coming on, initially and variably, like a younger, spunkier OASIS (primitive chemistry rather than heathen) and girl-boy acolytes of American garage-rock The WHITE STRIPES, The SUBWAYS signed to veteran US alt-rock imprint, Sire (Infectious Records in England). After perfecting their dirty guitar grind on hit singles, `Oh Yeah’ and `Rock & Roll Queen’ (the latter anthem as heard on the Rimmel/Kate Moss ad), the ambitious trio won almost universal critical acclaim for their Ian Broudie-produced debut LP, YOUNG FOR ETERNITY (2005) {*7}. The group subsequently performed both of the aforementioned singles on the third series of US TV’s The O.C., while further 45s, `With You’ and `No Goodbyes’, shot into the UK Top 30.
That ‘Stripes-esque ethos of breaking up but carrying on regardless, was installed into The SUBWAYS when Billy and Charlotte subsequently separated, only to reunite on a professional level when L.A. beckoned; the thought of losing out working with legendary grunge producer Butch Vig might well’ve been regretted later in life. Catering for an American audience as per usual for Brits on the up, the trio re-surfaced in 2008 with ALL OR NOTHING (2008) {*6}, a record that regurgitated the early 90s in one fell swoop. But for the gloss and sheen applied to its rougher edges, one couldn’t but think that pop-culture tracks `Boys And Girls’, `Kalifornia’, `Alright’, `Shake! Shake!’ and `I Won’t Let You Down’ could’ve been so much brash and blunter.
Respectfully relegated to the kitchen-sink of labels Cooking Vinyl, The SUBWAYS had lost none of their sparkle and punk-pop fizz for third set MONEY AND CELEBRITY (2011) {*5}. Trashy and commercial as if major success had to be the be-all and end-all, tracks such as `It’s A Party’ and `We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’ (both flop singles), were just basically Brit-pop tarted up for the tenties.
Shamelessly hook-line heavy but a tad back to basics, their fourth consecutive Top 50 set THE SUBWAYS (2015) {*5} was more of the same pogo-power-pop. Now over a dozen years in the business and still going strong, despite Billy and Charlotte’s split, the latter had her vocal say on a couple of the cuts (including `Is That Enough?’). But all ‘n’ all, lovey-dovey retro-rock tracks (examples `Taking All The Blame’ and `Because Of You (Negative Love)’) were anything but street-smart.
© MC Strong 2006/ERD // rev-up MCS Feb2015

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