After an explosive 2019, I was intrigued to hear what Slowly Slowly has bought to the table for 2020 for their forthcoming third album Race Car Blues. The Melbourne four-piece have not disappointed, bursting into the new decade with an electric collection of songs displaying front-man Ben Stewart’s impressive lyricism and the skillsets of Albert Doan (guitars), Alex Quayle (bass) and Patrick Murphy (drums) in action.
The album opens with ‘Creature of Habit’, the prequel of the group’s second single of 2019. Stewart, accompanied by a raw rhythm of an electric guitar, finds his flow immediately. Described as “a little bit floatier” and “less aggressive” than its sequel, the track is driven by its simple drum beat and creates a mellow rock sound. ‘19’ features hard-hitting vocals, both shouted and sung at once. Each line of the chorus is called out, the backing vocals floating through brilliantly.
‘Safety Switch’ was the group’s final 2019 single, featuring vocals from Adelaide punk-rocker Bec Stevens. Written from the perspective of two different people, Stewart’s and Steven’s vocals fit together perfectly, contrasting and overlapping. The track has a lot of life; even the riff grabs the listener. “Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s justified” is just another example of the great lyrics on this album. ‘You Are Bigger Than This Town’ has a Blink-182 vibe to it, the titular line reaching from the track. The drumming is also a particular highlight here.
‘Michael Angelo’ is a stand-out track, described as a “compelling anthem that declares a new era for [Stewart] as an artist”. Stewart sings about his song-writing ability, and in turn, displays this. It’s a great track, with well-written lyrics, and a catchy chorus; I think it speaks for itself. The electric guitars are a highlight on ‘Soil’, ringing along behind the vocals.
‘Suicidal Evangelist’ opens with the clean strumming of an electric guitar, starting slowly before the chorus cries out. “There’s no more room in my heart” repeats to close, a fitting final sentiment.
I don’t think I need to say anything about lead single ‘Jellyfish’, its place at #57 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2019 says it all about the awesome tune. ‘How It Feels’ is a different display of Stewart’s vocal ability, this time in a higher register. It opens softly, before diving into a heavy sound again. Passion and emotion come through the vocals, a barely audible whisper is heard before the second chorus comes crashing back. The electric lead slides the neck of the guitar on ‘Superpowers’, picking the quiet melody. The lyrics are performed in the perfect mix of singing and talking, the words flowing over the music. This is the pretty, slower album of the track.
The sequel to the album’s opening track and second single from the album, ‘Creature of Habit Pt. 2’, is pure punk. An epic track, more high-energy than its prequel, CoH has it all: brilliant lyrics, an attention-demanding electric lead, and bass and drums tracks that not only carry the track along but throw it at you. You become a part of the call “Olly olly oxen, free not sorry”.
‘Race Care Blues’ comes together by the first chorus with unapologetic punk and rock, backing vocals hovering between the lines, then leading out alone as the chorus closes. This song is a team effort, each member can be heard working together to create the wicked sound of this track. This is the appropriate ending to Slowly Slowly’s third album release. The finals lines, the last breaths, perfection.
This album is a new chapter for Slowly Slowly. Ben Stewart’s lyricism and vocals are constantly moving in new directions and ways for this release, and once you add the punk and heavy sound that the rest of the band brings, you are left with the striking album that is Race Car Blues.
Race Car Blues is out on Friday February 28 via UNFD.
Reviewed by Thom Devereux