What is it that draws us to punk rock? There are plenty of answers to that question, without a doubt, but for me personally I can say that it’s the sense of belonging. It’s a place that will accept losers, misfits, and even the biggest of fuck ups. It’s a club for those who feel like they can never be perfect. Even when the scene feels over-saturated with bands doing the same things, it’s comforting to know that other people are also trying their best to just get by. That’s where Elway comes in. Better Whenever, their third full length album (fourth, if you count …Too Bad, their sole LP under the name 10-4 Eleanor), is a crash course in attempting to be a decent human being and falling short.
On the surface, Better Whenever isn’t much of a departure from Elway’s previous output. The tempos vary a bit, but there are still plenty of sing-along moments that sound would fit on a playlist with The Lawrence Arms or any of their side projects. But Better Whenever shines lyrically, and is easily the band’s strongest effort to date. Vocalist Tim Browne has always had a hint of self-deprecation in his lyrics, but on Better Whenever he opens up and is actively trying to improve in spite of himself. On the album’s title track, Browne admits he “thought [he] meant it when he said [he’d] age with grace” while shrugging that he’ll get “better, whenever” before turning that same apathetic statement into a declaration.
There are a lot of bright spots throughout the disc’s ten tracks, from the aforementioned title track and the devastatingly confessional “Lunatic Thirteens”, to the camaraderie of “Frequent Wind” and the chilling finale of “Orphan Histories”. Not all of them are winners: “Shown Me to the Moon” pales in comparison to the tracks that it is sandwiched between, and “Delano” feels less like a closer and more like the victory lap to the finality of “Orphan Histories”, but on the whole the album truly understands that no one actually understands what being human is about.
Better Whenever isn’t a perfect album, but that’s also kind of the point. It belongs here.
4 / 5 Stars. Stream the album below.
RIYL: The Lawrence Arms, The Holy Mess, Off With Their Heads