05 Mar Slowly Slowly ‘Race Car Blues’ (Album Review)
When someone like Ben Stewart pours out every emotion he’s experienced over the past 18 months into 12 tracks, you almost have to stand up and applaud. It’s honest, it’s confronting, it’s heart on your sleeve stuff that can be tough to listen to at times. There are moments that feel like they are bordering on going to close to the sun and it’s those moments that show true vulnerability. But overall, along with some fantastic song writing it is the glue that makes Race Car Blues such an appealing album.
Now I’ve got another confession to make (say in Dave Grohl voice), I didn’t love 2018s St. Leonards. Not to say it was a bad album, songs like ‘Smile Lines’ & ‘Ten Leaf Clover’ and phenomenal examples of what the band are capable of, but it didn’t feel fully fleshed out. A few inconsistencies keep the bands debut from being truly great. Even with that said Slowly Slowly quickly quickly became one of Australia’s fasting rising bands off the back of the album selling out tours and gaining a cult following in the process. Enter Race Car Blues.
Right off the bat I love the concept of opening with ‘Creature of Habit’ knowing that Pt 2 has been released prior. Sharing some of the same qualities throughout the tracks, it’s bold its ambitious and most importantly it works. The song has an incredible flow throughout with an expert build to begin the track and a bass tone that is a clear standout throughout the duration of the album.
Where most albums would push forward with high tempo bangers early, Slowly Slowly immediately slow things down for the song ‘19’ which has possibly my favourite vocal performance of the entire album. Although it’s at this point where I realise how much Ben Stewart sings about his car and in particular the backseat of said car. Like surely all these massive moments in his life cannot all happen inside the confines of his own personal vehicle.
Race Car Blues then settles into a beautiful rhythm with the duelling vocals in ‘Safety Switch’ accompanied with an infectious chorus, one of many memorable hooks from the record. The horribly titled ‘You Are Bigger Than This Town’ gives me huge Bowling for Soup ‘1985’ vibes in its pre chorus and the song ends with an insanely catchy riff.
There’s something about a singer yelling “You got a good face for radio” that makes me giggle. The thumping drums make ‘Michael Angelo’ a guaranteed anthem for the band and backing the song up with another stand out in ‘Soil’ cements side A of my eventual vinyl to be as stacked as they come. Phenomenal lead guitars and crisp falsettos elevating an already excellent cut.
The slowed down ‘Suicidal Evangelist’ is the first miss of the album with a competent enough rhythm section but a song that otherwise feels lacking. Hit song ‘Jellyfish’ is still as contagious as it has ever been. I don’t understand the negativity some people have to this tracks, that shits crazy.
‘How it Feels’ opens with an irritating passage which unfortunately never really gets shaken with the band going back there throughout the underwhelming track. ‘Superpowers’ is sure to divide opinions, it’s the softest track on the record and never feels like it goes anywhere but I understand that’s part of its charm. Vocally Ben doesn’t add anything new and it feels like a few repeating techniques are being performed on this cut.
With the finish line in site Slowly Slowly give us two of their best offerings with ‘Creature of Habit Pt.2’ and the title track ‘Race Car Blues’. The former offers up a fantastic sequel to the opening track and I would argue that Pt.2 surpasses the original. The final cut of the album is the best Slowly Slowly have ever sounded.
With this Trophy Eyes like approach this feels like a band who are all writing together as one. Heavy breathing closing out the album sticks around for an uncomfortable amount of time, similar to a horror movie staying on a single shot raising those hairs on the back of your neck.
Race Car Blues is an album that requires the listener to invest multiple playthroughs to fully grasp. If you’re not as much of a lyrics person you may find this album a touch lacking in some departments. But for me for the first time in a years I truly felt connected to more than a few tracks off this release
Despite a few minor missteps along the way I can say with full confidence that this is a significant step up from St. Leonards. Slowly Slowly are building there Australian fanbase at a rapid rate and it is only a matter of time before they set there sites on world domination.