Adhering to the age-old Brit-rock playbook that dictates your second album must be tailored to appeal to American audiences, the Subways recorded their second album All or Nothing in Los Angeles under the direction of producer Butch Vig, the man who helmed such '90s landmarks as Nirvana's Nevermind, L7's Bricks Are Heavy, and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream before forming Garbage. Vig is an ideal choice for a trio so steeped in '90s alt-rock that they can't help but swipe titles from alt-rock hits of yesteryear: the album opens with "Girls & Boys" (just like Blur's 1994 hit), a couple of tracks later they get to "Alright" (just like Supergrass' 1995 single), and then get to "Turnaround" (Devo via Nirvana); they even unwittingly pay homage to the grunge-era Brad Pitt film with "Kalifornia." All this is appropriate, as Vig helps turn All or Nothing into a perfectly fine post-grunge album that could have easily come out in 1998 as 2008. The Subways' youthful exuberance has been harnessed, streamlined, and scrubbed, so there's not much kinetic energy but a whole lot of professional punch, which not only makes them sound just a little bit older than their years, but also has the effect of blunting whatever sorrow guitarist/vocalist Billy Lunn has channeled into his songs about breaking up with bassist Charlotte Cooper. A modern-day Rumours or Shoot Out the Lights, All or Nothing isn't, largely due to the glossy veneer Vig puts on the band -- something that is appealing on the surface, especially when the Subways have a good punk-pop song like "Kalifornia" or "Shake! Shake!" (or the very British Brit-pop of "Move to Newlyn"), but has the end effect of dulling both the emotional pull of Lunn's tunes and the Subways impact as a band.
|Label:||Sire / London/Rhino|