Monday, May 18, 2015

Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms - Heart String Soul (2015)

On the exuberant first track on his new album, Ryan Allen proclaims "the song on the radio should be me." The sentiments of that statement are impossible to dispute, of course. Each one of these eleven songs is exactly the kind of melodic, high energy power pop that, by all rights, should be blasting out of every Radio Shack transistor on the planet while the speakers melt in the heat of a perfect summer day. Songs like the lead-off "Should Be Me" and "Angela '97" and "Back to Square One" surge forward with so many melodic ideas crammed into their three minutes of life that there isn't time to fully appreciate them until around the third listen. Allen's strangulated yelp pings around the proceedings like a hyperactive Ike Reilly, bringing major league hooks to every chorus it touches down on. This is songcraft of the highest order, marrying the lyrical sophistication of solo Paul Westerberg with the pure pop instincts of Badfinger. And it's not all a breathless rush to the finish line. "Keep Me Around" employs an earworm jangle that you can imagine Tom Petty cocking an ear towards, and the final song, the comparatively slow "Bonded by Blood," is a young father's homage to his son that will break the heart of any listener with one. It's all so good, and Allen makes such a solid case for radio domination that it's easy to overlook the one problem with that ambition, and that is that the very idea of radio, at this point in the timeline, is an old-fashioned construct. It's been over thirty years since the Ramones elegized the medium on "Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio" and it ain't getting better. Which is to say, while Ryan Allen may want to be on the radio, and while Heart String Soul most certainly should be on the radio, both he and his music deserve so much more.

Heart String Soul on Bandcamp

Watts - Flash of White Light (2014)

Charlie Watts, Overend Watts, the Watts riots, and amplifier wattage... if ever a band christened themselves with an appropriate moniker, it's these guys. Like Charlie Watts, the band's principal songwriters John Blout and Danny Kopko keep their rock 'n' roll simple and direct, unadorned by any frills that aren't necessary. Every song here is confident enough to just hit the groove and let it swing, steamroller, or otherwise lay waste to the listener. Like Overend Watts and his bandmates in Mott the Hoople, they rock relentlessly without ever betraying their melodic instincts. A track like "Northen Boys" even taps into the tough metallic bubblegum of Cheap Trick's debut, while "Better (For a Girl Like You)" and "Wrapped Like Candy" slow the pace enough to touch into power pop. Like the Watts riots, Flash of White Light is barely contained chaos, a wholly masculine aggression willing to duke it out on the street corner. That cover shot of an uncontrolled horde of elo kiddies setting fire to stacks of vinyl is no accident - this is music meant to incite righteously unholy humping in the streets. And amp wattage? Well, just try to play this tightly packed firecracker superstring of Keef riffs, ACDC stomp, bad attitude and pop smarts without cranking the volume way up past ten and straight into broken rental agreement.

Flash of White Light on CD Baby

Top 50 Albums of 2014

1. The Nuclears This Is How We Party
2. Spoon They Want My Soul
3. Ex Hex Rips
4. Nude Beach 77
5. Twin Peaks Wild Onion
6. The Both The Both
7. The Rich Hands Out of My Head
8. The Jeanies The Jeanies
9. Little Jackie Queen of Prospect Park
10. Happyness Weird Little Birthday

11. The Breakdowns Rock 'n' Roller Skates
12. Needles//Pins Shamebirds
13. Chris Devotion & the Expectations Break Out
14. Nicole Atkins Slow Phaser
15. The Solicitors Blank Check
16. Fauna Flora Fauna Flora
17. The Cry! Dangerous Game
18. Sugar Stems Only Come Out At Night
19. Lydia Loveless Somewhere Else
20. Watts Flash of White Light

21. The Soft White Sixties Get Right.
22. The Ricky C Quartet Recent Affairs
23. Reigning Sound Shattered
24. Cheap Cassettes All Anxious, All The Time
25. New Swears Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever
26. Broncho Just Enough Hip To Be A Woman
27. Silver Sun A Lick And A Promise
28. Velociraptor Velociraptor
29. Steve Conte Steve Conte NYC
30. Ming City Rockers Ming City Rockers

31. Motel Beds These Are The Days Gone By
32. Sunrise Highway Windows
33. Jamie T Carry On The Grudge
34. Ex Cops Daggers
35. Linus of Hollywood Something Good
36. Brand New Hate Hangover and Over
37. Gramercy Arms The Seasons of Love
38. Dum Dum Girls Too True
39. The Number Ones #1's
40. Actual Water Call 4 Fun

41. Chains of Love L.P.
42. Sweet Apple Golden Age of Glitter
43. Phonograph Phonograph Vol. 1
44. The Grates Dream Team
45. The Men Tomorrow's Hits
46. Nick Waterhouse Holly
47. Papernut Cambridge There's No Underground
48. Split Squad Now Hear This
49. Chuck Prophet Night Surfer
50. James Williamson Re-Licked