Is it just me or is there is something about bands beginning with ‘The..’ that make you think “oh yeah, another indie band..yawn” ? That’s what it seems since about 1999 when The Strokes seemed to presage a flurry of ‘The’ bands for some reason. And so, The Subways then. In Krakow to win over the hearts and minds of a modest but enthusiastic audience of indie kids with their straightforward brand of rock ‘n roll, playing a pit called Loch Ness on a Thursday night before Easter on a short tour of Poland. Their previous two visits had been well received, and this one was a warm-up for the festival season, as well as an opportunity to test out some of their new material from their forthcoming third studio album.
It’s fair to say that The Subways wear their influences on their sleeves. After walking onstage dramatically to the End Title from Bladerunner – a film which outdates the band’s average age by five years – they launched into the opening riffs of ‘Kalifornia’ (misspelt in homage to the early Bradd Pitt movie?) with some vigour. ‘Young For Eternity’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Obsession’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ follow machine-gun style and it’s only at the end of the fifth song that Billy allows himself a brief ‘Dzekuje’ to the audience before ripping into Ash-like summery song ‘All or Nothing’. Like Ash, this young three-piece left school, skipped the university rites-of-passage and took on the world while most of us are still going through our bedroom/shoegazing phase. Supporting AC/DC last year is testament to what they have already achieved. What sets this three-piece apart from the average indie band then? What immediately strikes you is the tightness of the band. Lead singer and guitarist Billy Lunn, bare-torsoed and tattooed, amply backed by drummer Josh Morgan and bassist Charlotte Cooper. As a trio, their sound is muscular, lean, all classic riffs and lyrics about girls, parties, and, well, having fun. These are tunes that remind you of being young. Songs are belted out with an almost naïve disregard for rock’s more esoteric influences. Lunn’s screamed vocals reflect his infatuation with Nirvana and AC/DC; Morgan’s Grohl-like drumming more than competent. Pixie-faced Cooper, all of 21 years of age, is the real star of the show however. It’s hard, as a red-blooded male, to take your eyes off this little bundle of energy onstage; almost the same size as the bass slung around her neck, she jumps and headbangs her way around the stage in a short skirt as Morgan pounds and pummels away in the background. Effects pedals line the front of the stage, at least 20 I’d say. The spikey ‘1AM’, their breakthrough single, employs the boy’girl vocal to the max, as Charlotte’s cutesy voice accompanies Lunn’s deeper and more fluid singing in alternating verses. Reminiscent of erstwhile Pixies and Breeders bassist Kim Deal, Cooper also acts as backing vocalist to good effect in songs like ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ and ‘Turnaround’. New material was aired – ‘I Want to Dance…With You’ and ‘This Is the Club’ – but generally it was a retrospective of the band’s greatest hits from their first two albums – not that the 300-or-so crowd noticed; they were too busy moshing and jumping around to care much.
The Subways don’t claim to be a startlingly original band. Theirs is a back-to-basics approach which is reminiscent of the DIY ethics of punk. Have guitars, will play. They make playing look deceptively simple, which of course it is not. This is a huge talent. As demonstrated in probably their best and most well-known song ‘Rock & Roll Queen’, which they play as a last encore, they have the ability to write classic, catchy three-minute rock songs which stick in your head for days. This is Charlotte’s song of course, and she absolutely owns the stage as Lunn knowingly grins in her direction: “You are so cool, you are so rock and roll..” as the crowd goes wild and in true rock and roll style, everyone claps the band off coated in sweat, red-faced and longing for more. “Krakow – you are AWESOME” announces Billy before leaving the stage. The feeling, it seems, is mutual.
REVIEW SUBMITTED BY STUART WADSWORTH