Reviews Elway For the Sake of the Bit

Elway

For the Sake of the Bit

Elway kick off their latest with “Inches,” a middle finger at those of us listening to and writing about their music. So, well, I’m not the type to throw fuel on the fire so I’ll leave it at that. They’re entitled to their opinions. Tim Browne even shared some great points in an SPB guest column. The notable point in “Inches” opening the record, for me, is how it signals the tone of For the Sake of the Bit as a whole. This record is less fist-pumping anthem, preferring midtempo songs that look inward and outward, more like their labelmates Arms Aloft than the abundance of Lawrence Arms references I’ve made in the past. The eight songs here build and plod instead of reflecting the more base emotions of power chord punk. It is, however, heavily steeped in cynicism like any good punk should be.

Along with the midtempo melodies, Browne has turned into a singer. He’s still a punk singer, mind you, more akin to Blake Schwarzenbach than Barry Manilow, but he’s got some chops beyond shouting and growling the lyrics out, well on display in the rollercoaster ride “Eating Crow,” which has the band hitting new heights in songwriting prowess and vocal range. I hear some Jawbreaker elements in “Perfect Silence.”

As a whole, For the Sake of the Bit is first-person and does a lot of (inward and outward) finger-pointing. This record, as the title of album closer “Nobody Goes into Meteorology for the Sunny Days” suggests, is a thoughtful look at some downer subjects. The lead song is more of a lyric-driven piece that expresses ideas, while the following seven songs utilize more powerful rise and fall soundwaves with emotive and punchy choruses. I’d say that “Selfish Masochistic Psychic Trauma” is where the record peaks, using songs 2-8 in a rise-and-fall crescendo of emotion. “Selfish…” starts slowly, built largely around self-aware lyrics as the melody leads up to a chord-heavy chorus. Halfway through, Browne opens it up, belting out the lyrics as the guitars rise in suit. It showcases his singing ability and keeps the whole “rock out” thing going, with a few quick jumps between matter-of-fact speak-sing and the more emphatic lyricism that defines the song. Later, “Perfect Silence” follows a similar trajectory, but with a sunnier beat and chord progressions that temporarily lift the album’s spirits. The lyrics here are thoughtful and impressive in their ability to mix imagery and some higher-level vocabulary into something you can sing along to. While generally a bit gloomy, there are emphatic moments and potent beats (“Paper Guitars” as an example) where the record pushes through those clouds for a momentary charge. With Browne handling almost all of the vocals, the record is heavily tuned to his inflection instead of the usual punk singalong breakdowns.

There are some real moments on this record, and based on the last half especially, I’m excited to see where Elway is going as a band. There’s a progression throughout these songs that makes them multi-dimensional, occasionally positive, and filled with meaning that develops over repeat listens. “Inches,” to me, doesn’t fit much within the context of the whole record so I find it a curious way to kicks things off, but it’s a mover from then on.

7.5 / 10Loren
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7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

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