Speedmarket Avenue – Way Better Now
Way Better Now is the second full-length offering from Swedes Speedmarket Avenue. Flicking through the album notes and discovering that ‘feedback’ is credited as one of the instruments, albeit only on one song, I was filled with hopeful anticipation. Not so much because of the use of feedback in itself, but more because it struck me as idiosyncratic, and interesting, to list it along with guitars, drums and trumpets. However, apart from three or four standout tracks, and in defiance of my early expectations, Way Better Now is not a particularly idiosyncratic record, and not good enough to recommend repeated listening.Sirens, the opener - and the song featuring the ‘feedback’ - is by far the best moment. It is a stirring slow-burner, heavily backed by synthesisers and excellent drumming. The band creates a haunting, fragile sound on this song, and there is an atmosphere about it that brings to mind a lonely walk on a winter’s day. The tragedy is that it comes so early in the running order, and this problem is amplified by the album closer – Final Wall – being the only other song with this vibrancy. Final Wall closes the album brilliantly – the lyrics “I think I have to start now/accept the one you are” suggest a conclusion has been reached and it too has an atmosphere about it.
With it being last, though, the weaker middle of the record is bookended by the best moments. The intervening songs, such as Englightened and Left-Wing Indeed, and Way Better Now, do not epitomise the band’s best sound. The title track is a short, sharp pop duet with a lightening-quick tempo, and it seems out of place in the company of the majestic Sirens and Final Wall.One of the most annoying features of the album is the sharing of singing duties between Sibille Attar and Isak Klasson. Attar, who sings on the three best songs – Sirens, Less Than OK and Final Wall (the last of these admittedly also features Klasson) – has character in her voice, and she delivers her lyrics with stirring emotion. On Less Than OK, a morose, stripped-back piano ballad, she pines “Of course there is no one like you/the something we had/it fell through” and it is palpable she means it. As for Klasson, his songs seem dull and listless by comparison. His nasally whine is too prominent on Accident. And Don’t Fall In Love – the fourth track – destroys any momentum previously generated as it meanders by. The record would have been improved by giving more space to the female singer and leaving Klasson to backing vocals.Way Better Now leaves the impression that it is not as good an album as it should be. At times it is sublime, in the moments when Attar and the band create feeling in the music, but at other times, on some of the slower Klasson-led tracks, skipping the CD forward seems like the best idea. I would suggest the band don’t showcase their best material here, and it could be worth watching out for them in the future even though this album falters.Words: Craig Pearce