Album Review: Elway – “Leavetaking”

The first time I saw Elway live was when they rolled through town opening for Teenage Bottlerocket and The Dopamines. It was a pretty peachy show and Elway had a great presence, exhibited a great deal of aggressive bounce.

At the time their only release was the 2011 Red Scare release ‘Delusions.’

In the days and weeks leading up to a show I like to research the opening bands on the bill so that a) I’m familiar with some of their tunes. It’s always more enjoyable watching a band whose songs you can sing along with or b) if they suck or are just not to my particular tastes, I will know I don’t have to show up at the show right when the doors open. Or, show up and toddle off for a few pints at the local watering hole before the bands I want to see take the stage.

In Elway’s case, I had heard of them before the show and had a couple of their songs on various comps.

I tracked down a copy of ‘Delusions’ a few days before the show and became somewhat addicted to it, to the point where I was almost as excited for their set as Bottlerocket’s (almost). ‘Delusions’ is chock full of eleven songs of aggressive pop punk that ruminate on the broken hearts and frustrated turns, life (and pop punk) is often famous for.

Hailing from the same neck of the woods as Teenage Bottlerocket, Elway are a different breed of pop-punk than their more well known Ft. Collins counterparts.

Less Ramones/Screeching Weasel, more Descendents/No Use For A Name. In fact, the last track on ‘Leavetaking’ (‘Patria Mia’) comes dangerously close to aping the verse melody of No Use’s song ‘Room 19.’

‘Leavetaking’ is Elway’s ‘Delusions’ follow up, coming on the heels of last year’s EP ‘Hence My Optimism’ which includes one of the best new millennial pop punk songs I’ve heard in ‘Dear Colorado.’

‘Leavetaking’ doesn’t sound a great deal different from Elway’s previous releases.

‘The Great Divorce’ starts the record off with the same depressing, death obsessed lyrics that have run through their entire recorded career, buoyed by the desperate vocals and sugary melodies that work to even greater effect when ‘Salton Sea’ kicks into gear two minutes later.

‘Someday, Sea Wolf’ is indicative of the general overall aesthetic of the record: a little less aggressive than ‘Hence My Optimism’ but tighter and more focused than ‘Delusions.’

‘Montreal’ is an interesting acoustic ballad-type song. Elway’s slower songs have the same nuts and bolts as their faster songs and you sense that they could do acoustic sets that would sound almost as good as their electric ones. Lyrically, the acoustic approach works to ‘Montreal’s’ favor though, as sad songs about loss and guilt are better suited to the contemplative reflection that a more stripped down approach can provide.

‘One Flew East’ and ‘One Flew West’ are an interesting one-two punch as a song and it’s sequel which provide a pretty streamlined narrative but awarding each song with its own hooks and melodies. They work very well together.

I don’t know if I’d say ‘Leavetaking’ is Elway’s best record or not. At the very least it’s as good as ‘Delusions.’ But both records have certain songs that are better than the ones on the other.

Overall the songs on ‘Leavetaking’ are better written, more tightly crafted songs, with similar lyrical ruminations and a more cushioned sound, possibly due to the band having more money to record with this time around.

There aren’t any songs that are as immediately impressive and effective as ‘Dear Colorado’ and the album works better swallowed whole than a bite at a time, but fans of the band won’t be disappointed and newcomers will find reason to reach into the back catalogue to see what they come up with.

4/5 Stars

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