Written for The Music Fix.
It’s been ten years since they released their debut album Young For Eternity and, Dorian Gray-like, The Subways have hardly changed a bit. The punk rock trio were picked up by the mainstream for a while after winning a chance to play Glastonbury in 2004 and despite a brief affair with Warner Bros, TV and film appearances and a few singles on the Radio 1 A list, it’s been four years since their last album Money and Celebrity. But they’re back with a new, self-titled effort and these ‘underground favourites’ (I can see what you did there – Ed.) are intent on reminding everyone just what a fixture they’ve become on the British indie scene.
The Subways are a band who are never let down by their following, the tiny venue packed with excited fans from early on. It’s a loyalty that’s reciprocated by a relentless on stage energy. Bassist Charlotte Cooper flings her bright pink hair around while lead singer Billy Lunn jumps off the drum kit and it’s clear that they’re enjoying themselves as much as anyone in the audience. Their back-to-basics rock music feels almost nostalgic – and with more than a decade on the clock, for some in the audience these are the songs of their youth. The intros from old hits ‘Rock & Roll Queen’ and ‘Shake! Shake!’ are instantly recognizable and welcomed like old pals, the crowd singing back every word. It’s only their second UK date after an extensive European tour and drummer Josh Morgan has been absent for most dates so far (or as Billy puts it “Off finding himself with the trees and the fairies”). They take a moment before Josh’s favourite song in the set, ‘Dirty Muddy Paws’, to welcome him back, because it’s just not the same without him.
As the night progresses, the crowd gets more vocal and start demanding that Billy takes his shirt off. It was something he was always very quick to do in early shows, but now he is reluctant, insisting that his hard earned beer belly doesn’t look so good. He’s quick to come around however, and by the end of the night, rowdy audience members have coaxed him out of his trousers as well. “Encores are pretentious,” declares Billy, as the group remain on the stage through to the very end. There have been a few stage dives from the crowd and now it’s Billy’s turn. A staple part of The Subways show, it brings to an end a night full of jokes and laughter. It’s as if Charlotte, Josh and Billy are just some old friends that have come to visit. “Manchester, you’re fucking awesome!” Billy shouts, as he shuffles off the stage, pants still around his ankles.