Slowly Slowly – Race Car Blues
Released: February 28th, 2020
Ben Stewart | Vocals/Guitar
Albert Doan | Guitar
Alex Quayle | Bass
Patrick Murphy | Drums
Okay, full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Slowly Slowly. So when I was able to get my hands on this album I was extremely excited, but also curious as to what the boys would do this time around. To be honest, 2018’s St Leonards gave me mixed feelings, there were some songs that didn’t interest me, and lots where I just played the shit out of them. And with Race Car Blues it was hard to tell if they’d lean more into the pop, rock or slow ballad direction. The singles gave a little bit away, but as the album unfolded, it became clear that those singles were just the tip of the iceberg. And what I discovered as I dove into Race Car Blues, is that it’s a masterpiece.
The first track on the album is – what’s this? ‘Creature of Habit’ (part 1)! And yes, we like this a lot. Slowly Slowly released ‘Creature of Habit Pt.2’ as a single a while ago and we all fell head over heels for that one, and part 1 is the same coin just a different side. It’s slightly slower with the same chorus, not as rocky but still just as good, if not better. I don’t know how they took the same melody and just flipped it on its head. This is a major testament to the band’s creativity that they can turn the diamond around and so easily find different facets of the one stone.
‘19’ feels like classic Slowly Slowly. And I’m not saying classic as in it’s just typical Slowly Slowly, I’m saying that this song encompasses what I consider to be their signature sound. It’s a sweet meld of jangly rock, meaningful lyrics and emotional outbursts. There is nothing in this song to be blasé about, and if this song doesn’t become a fan favourite I’ll be very surprised. And hey, we need to have a good chat about ‘Safety Switch’ because this is the duet we never knew we needed. Hello Bec Stevens, it’s nice to meet you! You know, in the heavy scene it’s all ‘let’s use the girl for the chorus and backing vocals’ but right here, it’s a genuine duet – back and forth in the verses and harmonising in the chorus. They sing, “I wanna say yes but I don’t know” well I do and it’s a bloody yes from me – equal time to shine, they complement each other wonderfully and it’s just a damn good song. Proper respect.
Both ‘You Are Bigger Than This Town’ and ‘Michael Angelo’ took a couple of listens to really get in the groove but, oh my gosh, there’s something very addictive about these tracks. I think it’s that, in comparison to their St Leonards album, we’re seeing a lot more choruses and it’s working super well. Now, I love songs like ‘Alien’ where the verses run on from each other and the chorus is sort of at the end, but I also love what frontman/lyricist Ben Stewart has done with his song writing on this album. Maybe it’s more in tune with their live shows, because I can hear how these tracks are going to go off.
And let’s be real here, these guys know how to write a good hook and you’ll find a mint one in ‘Soil’. If you put it on a loop, you’d lose time daydreaming for sure. And another song to drift off to is ‘Suicidal Evangelist’. It’s slow, dreamy and beautiful. The verses run on into each other letting the storytelling unfold, and that piano melody is the perfect addition. But let’s get some energy in here! ‘Jellyfish’ is definitely the most pop inspired song on the album. It’s just a fun song, and live it’s already instigated many a sing-a-long.
But ‘How It Feels’ is a deceptive little beast. It starts out slowly with angelic vocals, and then we get the grit in Stewart’s voice punctuated by the cymbals and guitar chords. This song feels like it’s purging built up frustration with the repeated lyric ‘I know how it feels’. It’s a song you listen to when you’re not having a great day because it’ll let you get it all out. And then follow it up with ‘Superpowers’ when you need an emotional moment. It’s very apparent that Slowly Slowly are a vocally and lyrically driven band, but what we sometimes don’t focus on is the music that curls around the vocals and enhances them to such heights. ‘Superpowers’, I think, is a wonderful example; soft vocals that carry such weight but they’re lightened by a simple guitar melody.
And here we go, ‘Creature of Habit Pt.2’, the opening track’s more extroverted sibling. This is a real celebration song, a song you need to play when you’re winning at life, dancing with friends or just having a great day. It’s upbeat, joyful and frantic. And almost completely opposite to the title and closing track ‘Race Car Blues’. There’s a serious element with this one, it brings up feelings of longing and sadness, somehow, in the best way possible. It’s a brilliant track. Simple, with only two verses, but the progression of the song is something to lose yourself to before you realise it’s over.
Race Car Blues is an album I can’t fault. The slower songs usually lose me, but I didn’t go anywhere, and there’s something about the cadence of Stewart’s vocals, he’s hypnotising and you find yourself deeply involved with each lyric. The music itself flits from sweet and light to a heavy jam seemingly without any effort at all, holding everything together just as delicately and securely as a spiderweb. And just like that spiderweb, its perfection is subtle.
St Leonards was a good album, but Race Car Blues is the album we’ll still be raving about 10 years down the track.
Slowly Slowly – Race Car Blues tracklisting
1. Creature Of Habit
3. Safety Switch (ft. Bec Stevens)
4. You Are Bigger Than This Town
5. Michael Angelo
7. Suicidal Evangelist
9. How It Feels
11. Creature of Habit Pt. 2
12. Race Car Blues