Slowly Slowly have been steadily climbing the ranks in the Aussie emo scene at a rate that, well, to make the obvious joke, contradicts their name. Since the release of their second album, St Leonards, the Melbourne boys have been collecting milestones, not to mention praise for their emo-punk efforts. They’ve found themselves supporting Amy Shark and Red Hot Chili Peppers on national tours. And they’ve collected their first spot on a Hottest 100 countdown, a very reasonable #57 with the new album’s lead single ‘Jellyfish’.
Now, Slowly Slowly’s new album Race Car Blues is here and it’s an ode to growing the f*ck up. An ode to getting over preconceived ideas of failure, overcoming grief, and learning that falling in love ain’t so bad. It’s the “coming of age” record for those of us who already have come of age… some time ago.
Slowly Slowly’s Ben Stewart has seemingly always had a knack for taking a story and turning it into a string of heart-wrenchingly stunning lyrics. But Race Car Blues is different. There’s so much more, so many deeply poetic metaphors to read into. There’s a lot of growth on this release, both lyrically and musically.
The album goes hard from the very beginning. Opening with ‘Creature of Habit’ – the precursor to ‘Creature of Habit Pt. 2’, – that whole ~growing up~ theme becomes clear pretty quickly. There are tongue-in-cheek lyrics that reference the idea of growing up, falling in love, and not placing yourself on a pedestal anymore. Stewart echoes this in ‘Creature of Habit’, “Now I gotta think about my wrists when I ollie and now I’ve gotta think about everyone that’s not me”. And in ‘Jellyfish’, the lead single and ultimate emo love ballad, “Nothing makes me happier than watching you win. Hey, that’s something new, I was a selfish kid”.
‘Michael Angelo’ is a big anthemic tune about letting go. It’s one of those tracks you just know is going to lead those big Slowly Slowly-esque crowd singalongs chanting, “Tell the status quo, that I’ll be letting go, of everything I ever said, I’m Michaelangelo.” But despite the confident, roaring rock chorus it was actually born from the ashes of Stewart’s self doubt.
“It was about backing myself – I needed a song like that to raise up the flagpole, because I was super low. Instead of wallowing and writing a sad song about how I thought everyone hated me, I wrote a song about how much of a good songwriter I am,” he said.
Those explosive and catchy rock choruses continue in ‘You Are Bigger Than This Town’, ‘Safety Switch’, and ‘Soil’. Each has these clever and wordy but somehow still succinct lyrics. It’s almost like Slowly Slowly have taken that pop resurgence that’s entering emo genres but they’ve twisted it so it still goes just as hard.
Still, there are darker songs that balance all those euphoric feelings throughout. We’re reminded of the challenges that come with self acceptance and learning to let go and on tracks like ‘Suicidal Evangelist’ and ‘How It Feels’, Slowly Slowly invite you into these stories of loss and grief.
‘How It Feels’ goes back and forth between hurting and grieving and trying to support someone who’s feeling the same. The lyrics, “I know how it feels to be alone, do you know how it feels to be awake every night for 10 fucking years in a coma” echoes in ‘Race Car Blues’. Which is where the album all comes together. The closing track shares the same idea of going through 10 years of sadness and being ready to let go.
While Race Car Blues touches on dark times and losing yourself, it becomes clear that the album is about more than that. It’s about learning to leave it behind, look ahead, and realise it’s — as Stewart says, “about not being a victim anymore, in any sense of it.”
Race Car Blues is out today Friday, 28th February. Slowly Slowly will take the new album around the country in April.