Elway is a band I’ve always wanted to be excellent. Don’t get me wrong; they are great. Tim Browne’s songwriting, evoking nostalgia and melancholy, is top notch. Their riffs and melodies have always been infectious as hell, leaving the listener to hum classic tunes like “Passing Days” and “Albuquerque Low” for hours. However, I’ve felt there was something more I wanted from their music.
I first heard Elway when I saw them open for NOFX on their Self-Entitled tour close to ten years ago. They were a fantastic opener. Their energy, tightness as a band, and volume were the ideal cocktail to pregame a punk show. When I got around to listening to their output, I loved the songs but always felt a little disappointed by the production. At that time, they were a newer band and imperfect recordings were and still are expected, especially in the world of punk rock. Yet, even with all the aspects that make their songs great, I felt that if they had the slicker and louder production of records like On the Impossible Past or Good Views, Bad News, their music would shine even more than it already did. I felt this way with Elway for years, even with newer releases like For the Sake of the Bit.
However, on their newest single, The English Wishbone, I feel they finally got it right. The production is perfect, and much denser and more expansive than previous works. The layering of the guitars combined with the perfect EQ of the bass, harmonies, and percussion really brings the first track “The English Wishbone,” and its accompanying B-side, “Kronos V. Kairos” to life. Both tracks feature the same reflective lyrics you would expect from the Denver punk outfit, as well as the expected anthemic choruses. In addition to improved production, they make perfect use of dynamics. “Kronos V. Kairos” shows a proficiency in the quiet-loud structure, starting with an indie-rock/shoegaze inspired introduction and first verse before slowly building into a pulsing pop-punk prechorus. Before the end of the track, the listener can expect Bad Religion style harmonies, a breakdown before the emotional bridge, and an almost metal inspired outro with fast riffing, guitar licks and open chord voicings.
Aside from the improved production and Elway showing off their maturing sound with wearing more influences on their collective sleeve, the cover art is simply badass. Picturing what looks like a lithograph depicting old time astronomers observing an eclipse, it is a stark, monochromatic change to their more minimalistic art from releases like Leavetaking, or pastel art featured on Delusions. Any great musical release will have an equally impressive visual element to it, and The English Wishbone does not disappoint in that department.
Elway is a band I have enjoyed for a long time, and despite their past production always leaving me wanting something different, I consistently returned to their music. Simply for the fact that the songs are great. They are everything I look for in contemporary punk rock, and with the improved production and interesting musical turns that The English Wishbone takes, they once again prove they are a punk band worth their weight in cheap whiskey. If they continue in this direction with a future full-length release, I see nothing but excellence ahead.