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Elway - Leavetaking (Cover Artwork)

Elway

Elway: LeavetakingLeavetaking (2013)
Red Scare

Reviewer Rating: 3
User Rating:


Contributed by: AMeylinkAMeylink
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Taking a look back, Elway's debut Delusions was a solid start, but left a lot to be desired. I bought the album without any prior listens because of the fantastic album art (worth a gander) and the band's Red Scare relations. Though slightly miffed that the vinyl copy didn't come with a digital down.
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Taking a look back, Elway's debut Delusions was a solid start, but left a lot to be desired. I bought the album without any prior listens because of the fantastic album art (worth a gander) and the band's Red Scare relations. Though slightly miffed that the vinyl copy didn't come with a digital download or CD edition – come on! – I listened with open ears. It showed a lot of promise. Songs like "Whispers in a Shot Glass" and "Kristina's Last Song" had the memorable, gang vocal sing-alongs of then labelmates the Menzingers, and the album kept a steady pace, without any of the soft acoustic follies of most debuts. But the general feeling the album presented was of a band holding back. Most of the chord progressions tread the line of generic teenage garage punk and many a song lacked any notable melodies or guitar leads. In fact, aside from "Whispers" and "Kristina," I can't really imagine myself singing along with any of the songs, or even remembering any of the lyrics. There were moments, though: the finale of "Kristina's Last Song" was unashamedly rousing, catchy and vengefully fun; "Fuck no, I won't miss you. I've got some other shit to do. Goddamn, it's about time for me to get on with my life. Dust off your shoes son, we're going out to have some fun. It's all good now." In those moments, I could see there was greatness peaking out, and I figured that these guys would really capture it on their follow-up.

That just didn't happen. Leavetaking is essentially Delusions Part Two. While it's not a step back and certainly a record worth a listen, the band didn't seem to make any progression whatsoever.

The album begins with "The Great Divorce," which provides the stark contrast of the soft opening with a quick shift into skate-punk speed. Musically, it's emotive and moving, but the message is cringeworthy. Right away, the band is touching on my pet peeve in alternative music – atheism. Now, I'm not by any means offended by anti-religious dialogue. I am all for open discussion and diverse opinions, and I know that music is a place where ideologies are given at high volume, but the consistent trend in punk rock as a backlash against religion has gotten increasingly stale. We get it. You don't believe in God. Reminding the listeners how foolish you think it is to subscribe to Christianity is becoming almost as annoying as Christian praise music. Aside from the admittedly clever line "And when she prays, it sounds like a mad girl's love song," it comes off as a little flat start to the album.

Ideologies aside, "The Great Divorce" is still a passable, quick opener to Leavetaking. I let the pet peeve slide–I know that a lot of people don't share my distaste for theological discussion. However, immediately when the chords to the second song, "Salton Sea" began, I groaned out loud. The progression falls somewhere in the local teenage opener range, and points to a glaring inadequacy that frequently comes back throughout all of Elway's work: the lack of an original take on a tired genre. Punk music has never been a genre that prides itself on technical prowess, but in a time when such a vast amount of material is readily available via the internet, punk bands need to have an X factor. There is a necessity in something intrinsically defining the music to develop a cult following in such a small, sparsely populated fan field. I know this certainly applies to all music, but somehow it always seems more desperately accurate in this music scene. Lyrics, harmonies, lead guitar lines–Christ, anything to separate from the pack.

Like Delusions, there are moments on this record where we see a unique Elway take form, but there aren't enough of those moments and most of the time it feels like I'm listening to a band playing half-hearted cover songs of '90s skatepunk bands. The band's one distinctive, repeated tool used throughout both albums appears on "Salton Sea" and continues to irritatingly pop back: the music drops out before the fourth beat and all we're left with is what's supposed to be a clever vocal end of a stanza. Occasionally, this will work in the right context, but hearing it over and over again on this album gives the impression of a bad stand-up comic, setting up scenarios for ultimately forgettable punch lines. The set up, the joke, the "ba da ting!" Lyrically, these moments just aren't strong enough to carry such an emphatic stop.

Singer Tim Browne has highs and lows, vocally and lyrically. Most of the record, he resembles a passable Dan Andriano, with a little less flexibility. There are moments when he just can't quite give the vocals the power necessary and it really scales back the emotional magnitude of the songs. This is made all the more strange by the few times on the record he gives his 100 percent and delivers an important line with a Banner Pilot-esque gravelly yell. When Browne gives us these deliveries, I'm forced to ask myself "Why not on the rest of the album?"

Thematically, the band stay on the tried and true areas of booze, being on the road and religion. There's nothing inherently wrong with the focus–these topics are for punk music what love and dancing are for pop. But as with the chord progressions of most of the songs, a lot of the lyrics barely scrape the surface on anything or give us a unique look. On "Prophetstown," Browne sings "getting sick of all the drinking, getting sicker every day". The themes are present, but only in the "Idiot's Guide to Writing Punk Lyrics" way, which is upsetting because of those flickers of creative genius heard occasionally.

However, I'd be remiss not to admit that these flickers grow a bit more prominent later in Leavetaking. On my first listen, the first four or five songs felt like fillers, which made me dread the end of the album–the last few songs before the closing finale are always the worst. I was surprised to discover that the best songs on here (and possibly of any release this month) were those two songs: "Ariel" and "There is a Line." "Ariel" is an unashamedly nostalgic song about longing for a romantic interest from one's past. The chorus carries the most memorable melody of any of the songs: "Ariel, I hope this finds you smiling." Browne cleverly works through a topic that can easily fall tacky, which makes the lyrical mediocrity of most of the rest of the album seem all the more underwhelming. On "There Is A Line," the opening lead guitar line sounds unique and nearer to the Get Up Kids than anything else Elway have played up to that point. This theme continues with the final song, "Patria Mia (Room 20)," making these last two seem like a breath of fresh air (though the closing gang vocals are a direct ripoff of Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train"; no joke). Again, this begs the question, "Why not the rest of the album?"


Ultimately, Leavetaking will probably be beloved by the punk scene for its brash unwillingness to try anything new for most of its running time. I should add: this is not a terrible album. It keeps a good pace and I enjoyed multiple aspects of it. It just lacks that X factor that keeps me replaying stuff like the Menzingers. Just like their debut Delusions, Elway continue to give us sparks of something great, but not at a rate adequate to carry an entire album. I guess there's always the next one.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastNothington - Borrowed TimeThe Sidekicks - Awkward BreedsMasked Intruder - Masked IntruderElway - DelusionsDead To Me - Moscow Penny AnteThe Holy Mess - Cande Ru Las DegasElway - Hence My Optimism [7-inch]

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
theproblemwithfire (July 22, 2013)

this band rocks about as hard as yellowcard.

seriously, like what you like, but this midwest pop punk that everyone gets a boner over here at the org is one gravelly-voice and a song about pbr away from sounding like all the glossy pop rock those dorks at absolutepunk are always jocking.

i've been coming here for a few years now and it's more than apparent that even though this is a supposed "user-submitted site" that there's roughly just a handful of people dictating what's cool here, which is why we get two stories in one week about the new guitar center video of alkaline trio or a constant barrage of menzingergaslightanthemlawrencearms "news" at such a sickeneing frequency. Even the little bit of modern hardcore punk (Paint it Black) that people love around here seem to love is still pretty poppy by genre standards.

I know that if anyone responds to this they will slag me as being some sort of pretentious music snob, blah blah blah, but i'm just saying that for a punk music site, this place focus, very narrowly, on a certain sound and handful of bands and have probably lost, and will continue to lose more traffic until they broaden things a bit within their punk genre coverage. The Crass piece was great, and every once in a GREAT while, i find something cool and a little different here. I've submitted legit, relevant news before that didn't make it, yet somehow that Mixtapes band always has news being posted here, or some odd shitty metalcore band, though, so... this place is a weird midwest poppunk brian-fallon asshole rimming conundrum, darlin maria.

TL;DR version: expand your coverage, PN. There's a lot of cool punk music out there that doesn't involve ripping off Dillinger Four and Jawbreaker 9 gajillion times.

kursk64 (July 22, 2013)

I think the hype is to blame more than anything, people seemed to be acting like this was going to be a record that would change everything. Instead they just put out a really decent but not radically different record - and that track-by-track linked previously is a good read.

irish_punk_is_gimmickry (July 22, 2013)

lol at echos the pitchfork lackey STILL trying to troll pno....................................................

EchosMyron (July 19, 2013)

That Under the Gun article is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read.

EchosMyron (July 19, 2013)

This label is really shitty. Aside from a handful of quality albums between 2005-2008 (Bottlerocket, The Falcon, Lillingtons), they have never released anything that can even be regarded as passable music.

mcfly (July 19, 2013)

Holy Shit, this review is all over the goddamned place. The flow of this record rules. It's truly a record, as opposed to a collection of songs. Playin this shits on replay. Long live the Elways!

R3vengeTherapy (July 18, 2013)

I legitimately don't understand why this band is receiving any hype at all. I mean, it's cool that so many people are behind them and love it, but I have to agree with the reviewer, despite the fact that said reviewer seems to have some kind of shit attitude towards the genre.

ak3punk (July 18, 2013)

I really enjoyed this album. I can't stop playing it. It's definitely an evolution from their previous material.

baseball (July 18, 2013)

Wow, this is a surprising review to me. I thought this album and the new Captain, We're Sinking were the biggest step ups from this general genre.

eatbicycles (July 18, 2013)

just cuz tim browne says he intended to be deep doesn't mean the songs were successful. i haven't heard the album so i don't know. that track-by-track explanation is bunk.

BrainTrust (July 18, 2013)

I expected more ot this. I really liked Delusions, but this one just an "okay" album, sadly.

MDJoyce (July 18, 2013)

What shitty, incorrect review. I disagree with this review almost entirely. You should all read Under the Gun's track-by-track instead to see the true depth that flew way over this reviewer's head (link below).

I don't mind strong disagreeing opinions, I just like the people writing them to know what they're talking about, especially when those people are given a pulpit like this. My enjoyment of music is 75% lyrical. AMeylink, when you start criticizing the first song based on surface assumptions and knee-jerk reactions, you do a disservice to this band and the intelligence of both the musicians and their listeners. The Great Divorce references lines from two famous Christian authors of the past, Sylvia Plath and CS Lewis--this is not some atheistic pandering, but true conflict and struggle written into a song. I picked up on only a few of the very heavy references my first listen, but it becomes more apparent as you spin it more. This album doesn't tackle simple shit by any means, but rather covers topics of literary existentialism (Someday, Sea Wolf/Great Divorce), environmentalism (Salton Sea), and rewriting history through mythic rehashing (Christopher). And they do it all in a modest, humble, "hey we're just these punks" kind of way.

Accusations of "teenage skatepunk" seem incredibly ironic to me, since this is the equivalent of a heavy Faulkner album amongst many Dan Brown albums out this summer; if anything the inability to grasp the depth makes the reviewer seem like the immature one to me.
http://www.underthegunreview.net/2013/06/25/exclusive-elway-lea vetaking-track-by-track/

mikexdude (July 18, 2013)

I heard a couple songs and I think the drummer's kick drum may think it's in a skate punk band--at the very least.

sleepwalker (July 18, 2013)

Spot on review. I'm not sure which is the bigger problem in punk: generic, happy-to-be-mediocre bands or the fans that give them a pass to do so.

iamdamian (July 18, 2013)

I like these guys, but their recordings are missing that BIG, BOLD and POWERFUL sound that they're live show and Atlas Studios are known for. These guys love the Larry Arms. I love the Larry Arms, I keep wanting something with that big bold and powerful vibe of their last two records. Maybe this is just a build up to that...

jvoland (July 17, 2013)

Also, the sing along in the last track is definitely not a "direct rip off" of "Runaway Train" - not even close.

jvoland (July 17, 2013)

I definitely dig this record and it's certainly a step up from their previous full length. That being said, the reviewer made SOME good points. Especially regarding the formula in the songwriting here. They do that "beat drops out then comes back in to drive momentum" thing a LOT. The problem with that is, it's way less effective when you overuse ideas like that and it loses it's steam. This was not a good review though, I don't think. He failed to mention (unless I missed it?) "Christopher" which is a clear stand-out track on this record.

Bottom line is it's a good, catchy punk record. It does sound a lot like Chris' songs from The Lawrence Arms on a few tracks, but I think they are definitely finding their identity. The next record they do could be the one that really sets them apart. Oh, and they're a good live band and very very nice, friendly folks!

theproblemwithfieri (July 17, 2013)

Nice trollin'.

AMeylink (July 17, 2013)

Apologies for the lengthiness- I wrote this review for my blog and even pared that version down...I'm kind of longwinded (you should read my texts). Also, skate punk? Garage band? Very generic terminology, I should have seen the punk community disagreeing with me on those lines. It's kind of hard to define a sound that is so generic, even for the punk world.

kneel (July 17, 2013)

its common to say that elway's predecessor is the lawrence arms. and, its not far from the mark, no doubt.

but lets get real. this seriously upped that ante. this album is maybe not groundbreaking, but it is really huge, its incredible, and its top-ten material, for sure. there are some parts, particularly at the end, that introduce a new level of complexity that i'm so happy to see from these guys.

BK, Chris, you have something compete with this year.

chipsahoycookie (July 17, 2013)

I never understood long reviews of records. To me, the point of a review is to see if the album is worth my time. In the time it takes to read this novel, you could have already listened to the whole goddamn record.

party-animal (July 17, 2013)

Certainly not breaking any new ground but it's fun and poppy and easy to sing along to. Can we assume the reviewer is one of those "org-core" haters? Nothing wrong with that, maybe you should have just picked a different album to review.

While there are still hints of TLA blaring through their headphones as their writing lyrics I think there's a lot of great simple chord progressions paired with some really unique vocal melodies here. I would easily lump it in with what I'm seeing is a trend in a more grown up punk sound a la Captain, We're Sinking, Worship This!, Menzingers etc. Good shit.

sawdonkey (July 17, 2013)

I'm with the reviewer on this. Overall, this sounds like something I would like, but nothing grabs me and makes me want to listen to it. The were entertaining on Saturday though.

badbrain (July 17, 2013)

Solid record, dumb review, band is jerks

davebrave4 (July 17, 2013)

Reviewer does a great job of analyzing the lyrics, themes, etc. (although I disagree with her or him on the subject of atheism in lyrics), but that's the longest review I've ever read that doesn't really describe what the actual music sounds like. If I hadn't heard this band before, I would think (based on this review) that it's either a garage punk or a skatepunk band, and it is neither.

eatbicycles (July 17, 2013)

seems like you couldn't really let that pet peeve slide

Sho-Nuff (July 17, 2013)

Solid record but that review was more annoying than a mosquito bite on my ball sack. Say "progression" one more time motherfucker.

davebrave4 (July 17, 2013)

Is Delusions really a debut if they previously released a number of albums under a different name?

These guys were really fun this past weekend. I told the singer I used to listen to 10-4 Eleanor and that I keep forgetting it's the same mahfackas and that the only album I had of theirs was the EP Words Cannot Express How Much Fuck This Band. He freaked out--apparently he hadn't thought about that album for quite some time.

Guess I'll have to listen to the stream before picking up the new one. Thanks for the review.

kidgotham (July 17, 2013)

I love this record. Y'all are nuts

pokinatcha (July 17, 2013)

One of the best reviews I've read on the site and right on the mark. My thoughts exactly.

A total letdown of an album.

xaviersinclair (July 17, 2013)

bada BING. It's bada bing.

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