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.