ALBUM REVIEW: Speedracer – ‘Beneath The Surface’

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane  {The Colourful Writer}

A couple of years ago I was at The Flamin’ Galah with my boyfriend’s old band, who at the time I was managing. The band were set to play a show there that night with a line up of other local rock bands, most of whom I had not yet seen live. One of them was Speedracer. When they hit the stage, I was blown away. Their stage presence and sound was something else. If I closed my eyes I would have thought I had flashed back in a time machine like something out of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, to the 90’s, to an Alice In Chains or Stone Temple Pilots gig. Speedracer encapsulates the grunge rock vibe of the 90’s and brings with it a very Brisbane rock band of the 2000’s feel. I am, with all honesty, highly surprised this band has not sky rocketed to stardom by now. 

At a recent gig, I found out the band were set to release their new album this year. I jumped at the chance to review it. The album was released (a little earlier than planned due to a slight distribution hiccup) last month. ‘Beneath The Surface’ features nine tracks of pure grunge and rock delight. Listening to it for the first time was like opening a present on Christmas morning that you’ve been waiting and hoping for all year. There’s been no shortage of new music being released over the last year and a bit, with lockdowns giving bands time to write new music and let their creative juices flow. Though Speedracer commenced production on this album pre-covid, in 2019. The album was engineered and produced by Jeff Lovejoy from Blackbox Studios and mastered by Matt Grey of Matt Grey Mastering.  

One of my favourite movies of all time is ‘Singles’ and the soundtrack that goes with it is one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Featuring bands like Alice In Chains, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and more. Speedracer would have fit this album like a glove. Not only is their sound reminiscent of these bands, but their talent, ability and entire vibe fits it too. I can imagine almost all of the songs from ‘Beneath The Surface’ working well on this soundtrack. 

The album opens with Until I Die. Nice opener. A pelter. Setting the pace for the entire album in one hearty 3 minutes and 20 rocking track. Frontman Jason Vowels sings and snarls the lyrics at you with a gorgeous drawl that was one of the first things that drew me to this band. The opening riff actually gives me a bit of a Motley Crue vibe. You can tell, throughout the whole album in fact, that all the members of this band clearly have superb taste in music and bands, with strong influences shining bright. 

Beneath The Surface is a stand out track for me. It makes sense that it is the title track, the layers from the instruments and vocals have this track sounding BIG. Heavy on the bass lines and catchy as heck. This is one I hum to myself for hours after listening. Vocals having a deep Scott Weiland vibe for this track. Sleep is up next. Another stand out. It starts heavy and solid, a pumping track, straight to the heart, to your chest, like a heartbeat. “Sleep while I’m awake tonight…” again a bass line that I just can’t get enough of from colourful bassist, Bill Beverly. Riffs over the top of the heavy bass from guitarist Andrew Waterfield and the song phases out with keys and synths giving me an 80’s vibe that I adore. 

Better Off Dead is aggressive. The lyrics and music combined seem to be yelling at someone who “never listens…”. Conversely, You Can’t See starts gently, with drumsticks tapping, a more gently delivered vocal and slower pace. A ballad of sorts. Ebbing and flowing from start to finish.

Production Line begins with a quiet count of “1,2,3” before the guitar, drums and bass kick in followed by vocals, clearly articulated but with a grungy overtone. This one lends itself to a much more upbeat vibe, less angst filled and a more positive note from this track “A brand new life for you and I…” This is one of the tracks that feels more modern rock and less 90’s grunge vibe. 

Not As Bad begins with an almost eerie chime and drum beat. Followed by continual echoing “Yeah’s” before settling into the song. Again, my mind is drawn back to days of my youth. 4ZZZ Market Day’s, BDO’s, Livid’s. I am at the side stages watching and listening to bands that are good enough to be on the bigger stages. Like the time I saw Pangaea on a small side stage at Livid one year. I was bewildered as to why they were not on one of the main stages. Speedracer gives me that same feeling with this track. In fact, this song does kind of remind me a little of ‘Freibentos’ days.

She’s Got Me Thinking kicks off with some mean cowbell sounds (More cowbell!), echoing backing vocals and a steady, heavy drum beat. The layering of the instruments, vocals, backing vocals and other sounds on this track are mixed to perfection. There’s a bit of an Ugly Kid Joe sound going on in this track with a little Gambles Goat in there too (please tell me you remember Gambles? A totally underrated Brissy band from the 90’s) Sick Friend brings a Guns N Roses influence to the mix, even the vocals take on more of an Axl Rose drawl and vibration in places. Big guitar in this track. 

Speedracer bring big rock, big grunge, big vocals, big sound. And they do it all with a clear passion and dedication to their music and to their band. Bands like this have a maturity about them that displays years of a crystal clear love for music as a whole. Each member no doubt born with music in their veins. I love watching these guys play live. I just love this band and I highly recommend that you get all up, in and around their music and live shows, there is no chance in hell you’ll be disappointed with what they have to offer.

Speedracer – ‘Beneath The Surface’ is out now!

Track listing:

  1.  Until I Die
  2. Beneath the Surface
  3. Sleep
  4. Better Off Dead
  5. You Can’t See
  6. Production Line
  7. Not As Bad
  8. She’s Got Me Thinking
  9. Sick Friend

Physical copies will be available in the near future, but for now you can tune in via most listening platforms.

Speedracer are:
Jason Vowles – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Andrew Waterfield – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals, Banjo
Bill Beverley – Bass
Gavin Herrenberg – Drums, Percussion

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