Elway - The Best of All Possible Worlds (Cover Artwork)


The Best of All Possible Worlds (2022)

Red Scare Industries

There’s an interview I remember right as Elway was starting to catch some buzz on the release of Leavetaking (I think?) where Tim Browne stated that he ‘didn’t want to be The Menzingers.’ He had seen his former Red Scare colleagues meteoric rise and in a not untheoretical alternative universe, you could see Elway find a similar path. The Sidekicks tried it! Elway made good on that statement by leaning into a more somber, lo-fi direction with Better Whenever. It was the almost intentional type of self-sabotaging Browne routinely sings about with Elway but still the most underrated album in their discography. But Elway knows what they want. To beat the shit out of three chords over whiskey-soaked vocals that span influences from Denver to Chicago to Philadelphia.

Elway confirmed that orientation with For The Sake of the Bit which was a ripper that found the band firmly leaning into Chicago’s Naked Raygun and Screeching Weasel as influences. With a nod to the band’s trajectory in the title and the need to write a new album to tour, Elway went on short run of legendary shows with Dead To Me and largely disbursed. Fast forward to last year’s War On X-Mas, Elway returned with a promise of a new album to fans singing back every word of their set. Elway made good on that promise to the booze-soaked crowd in Chicago that cold December night and returned with The Best of All Possible Worlds. It’s the most Elway record ever.

“Pangloss” opens the record with Browne delivering his trademark optimism over choir-esque horns. “I believe you if you said / We were already dead / There’s no hope or rescue / Or return,” pours out Browne as his trademark knack for melody pours another one out. Immediately, you can see Elway have ditched the stripped-down Chicago pop-punk for something resembling their first three efforts. There are classic moments resembling all of them, even the underrated Better Whenever. On “The English Wishbone,” by the second listen you’ll be screaming along with the lines, “To know the night / Was to live in it forever.” And that’s before you even hit the ending solos and harmonies.

Following in order, “Unclaimed Graves” has the alt-country flirtations the band occasionally leans into. They are tempered throughout the song and reappear throughout the back half of the vinyl. “The Rest Is Posthumous” has a featured appearance from Deanna Belos of Sincere Engineer, another fellow Red Scare travelers who like those mentioned above recently swung for some bigger fences with their latest release. It’s in part what makes this record feel like such a classic sounding Elway record, they know where the sweet spot is, and they are intent on delivering the best of their possible musical lineage. They even resurrected the dead livers in The Holy Mess for the sake of the album cycle tour.

Speaking of which, For The Sake of the Bit was a compact record coming in at 25 minutes - something that added immense replay value. The Best of All Possible Worlds eschews that for a sprawling (at least for a punk record) 37 minutes. With Elway intent on hitting their sweet spot on the release, this length might be a bit off putting given how many times you can search unclaimed graves for the perfect three chord melancholy. But it’s the strength of the songs that really serve The Best of All Possible Worlds well. There are not many songs on this album that don’t contain the gang vocals sure to spill over cans of PBR in a live setting or Browne’s earnest choruses demanding finger pointing. Elway close out the album with “My Blue Hour” and “The Jetty” highlighting both of those strong album traits.

The Best of All Possible Worlds is what it says it is. The best of Elway. It listens almost like a greatest hits record in the familiarity of it. But that’s exactly what I want in an Elway record, and it seems like this time around, so did the band.