Elway – Better, Whenever

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews


Better, Whenever - Red Scare Industries

Elway is the quintessential band for aging punkers.  The Fort Collins, Colorado quartet’s career may not span a vast history, but comes from the same stylistic branch of The Lawrence Arms family tree as offshoots Sundowner and Brendan Kelly And The Wandering Birds.  In other words, they really fit their home on Red Scare Records well.  A storytellers at heart, Tom Browne sings with the raspy clarity of Chris McCaughn funneled through an even-tempered delivery akin to that of Josh Caterer (The Smoking Popes).  Taken against a backdrop of aggressive punk rock evened out with each chorus’ soaring melodies, Elway’s latest full length, Better Whenever, explores the double edged sword of warm nostalgia meets dark regret that comes with moving the hour hands of life’s ticking clockwork.

Balance is key with Elway, and nowhere does that come across clearer than in opener “Our Lady Of The Thompson River.”  Armed with a catchy opening guitar lead, Browne eases in melodically on the coattails of a steady mid-tempo entrance.  Flowing like an easygoing shoreline, riffs roll and spike at varying intensities as Elway plugs away alongside subtly escalating harmonies that bolster each inspired lyric.  Better, Whenever plays to a very even-keel atmosphere, but as Browne’s voice during the title track crackles and pops as he approaches a throaty climax, Elway push with enough force to get noticed.  “Lunatic Thirteens” unravels with much the same punch, as does the explosive supporting calls popping up throughout “Third Coast Temple.”

As a rule, the Better, Whenever tends to rev up with each new track until reaching the emotionally reflective finale, “Orphan Histories” and “Delano.”  “Delano” in particularly embraces a relatively melancholy temperament in the conversation between washed out characters trading stories at a dreary bar.  “She asked if I ever thought that I’d disappear; I’ve been battling my irrelevance for years,” queries Browne as he laments the lingering shadow of wasted youth after waking up in the thick of his middle years.  Spoken with the weighted combination of reluctant perseverance and disappointment, Elway musters the energy for one final rebellious breath in a call to, “toast to our obscurity,” concluding Better, Whenever with one of the disc’s most powerful bridge-to-chorus combos.  

Achieving a rare synergy of lyrics and melody, Elway speaks with the genuine air of today’s most insightful punk acts.  For such a dark album, Better, Whenever liberates itself from those dampened expressions and stories by owning up to its shortfalls like an addict learning to embrace a support group.  Blunt honesty paired with an unapologetic delivery bestow Better, Whenever with a subtle charm that feels familiar but wholly resonates with Elway.  Overall, Elway delivers a standout album made for those that aren’t afraid to embrace life’s scars.