I'm not usually a fan of digital-only releases, especially singles, preferring the tactile sensation of having a record on the player and liner notes in my hands. That said, having casually enjoyed Elway's previous incarnation, 10-4 Eleanor, I was curious enough to purchase the Passing Days release to see if and how the band might have progressed now signed to Red Scare, a label where bands seem to flourish and grow.
The band, or at least their singer Tim Browne, is clearly a fan Chris McCaughan of the Lawrence Arms, as Browne's vocal delivery often brings McCaughan to mind-which, for me, is always welcomed. Another similarity they share with the Lawrence Arms are lyrics that possess poetic and often detailed, rich imagery that engages the listener and has a storytelling quality without losing its personal focus. These, however, are just points of reference, with Elway being much more than a Lawrence Arms ripoff.
Browne's voice possesses harsher edges to it, giving Elway's songs a grittier edge in every song and a more fluid transition between its melodic and gruff dynamics than the Lawrence Arms are capable of. It gives variety to the songs, ensuring they don't become monotonous or dull. It's a dynamism that gives Elway's songs depth and replay value.
The title track of this digital release for Red Scare sets the tone for the two following tracks: mid-paced with upbeat flourishes of Midwest-esque punk. "Passing Days" does well to generate a sense of energy without the need for a breakneck pace, with the guitar hooks and rhythm section achieving something similar to labelmates the Menzingers but in a slightly more controlled manner. It gives a sense of purpose that a lot of mid-tempo punk often lacks. The track sucks you in, with its lyrics showcasing their strong songwriting with great lines-"Smoking cigars settle in an ashtray / in a dingy bar where romances are born / the sound of Denver seeping from the jukebox / but no country road could ever take us home."
The first of two accompanying B-sides are "Patrick's Scarf Is So Douche", which starts a little measured before breaking loose into a great guitar line that conjures thoughts of driving along a stretching highway escaping the shitty day-to-day world. The song is about the redeeming power of music-to uplift, support or provide escape when things aren't going right. It's an almost universal experience when each of us having a time when the songs we love have helped us out in some way. The song's propulsive drumming-along with its great breakout guitar hook-tap into that spirit. Add in some shout/group vocals and you're in punk rock heaven-a song to loudly sing along to that means something we all can relate to, to pick you up when you're down. Perfect.
The other B-side, "Wolf Shirt" slows things down a little. The song, like many others before it, explores themes of religion, God and belief. The song doesn't come across preachy-rather, it's a call to arms, to throw off the guilt, shame and submission growing up in a religious lifestyle can bring with it. "Don't ever be afraid / no one can tell us who we are / not brothers, not men, not gods / our bodies are ours and ours alone." Musically, the tune sits in a nice riff/groove for the first two-thirds before a quiet change-up that builds in an instrumental that keeps things interesting to finish on.
The three songs on Passing Days do well in introducing and showcasing the different aspects to Elway as a band-from introspective and lovelorn to upbeat and inspiring, personal and socially aware in their content. I'm glad I took the chance on the digital release as Passing Days is a great warm-up for their full-length, Delusions, due out in May.