John Allen – Sophomore review

JASSince being discovered last year by Frank Turner and subsequently taken on tour with him, John Allen has found his support picking up throughout Europe. The artist (for what better way is there to describe a man who creates such a work of art?) describes himself as “yet another one of these bearded and tattooed singer/songwriters”, whose inspirations root deep within punk, indie and americana music. John’s songwriting talent and gravelly voice have been acknowledged by Rolling Stone Magazine and continues to win fans.

One of the things central to a singer/songwriter’s success is tight, creative lyricism, and for every one of the ten tracks on this album there’s excellence in abundance regarding it. There’s levels of originality in this record in such volume that sets it apart from the rest of many big names in the genre at the moment, with an honest, down-to-earth vibe running through every track. Even on the less oozy-optimism tracks, a sense of grit and determination perseveres through the lyrics.

Opening New Years Eve couldn’t be a better way to kick off the album; in a very Rob Lynch-esque manner there’s the energy of the occasion captured in the track, with an impartial personal commentary of the event slipping into the words. John’s gravelly voice is refreshing distinct (almost pirate-y, some might say), clearly rolling through rhymes that make you laugh, then think, and it’s easy to see why Frank Turner was so struck by his work. In fact, if the song were slightly stripped back, it wouldn’t be an unsurprising addition to Frank’s first album, Sleep Is For The Weak, with the line, “maybe this will be my year” containing a positive glint that sparks up continuously in John’s music.

Home is a much more personal track, the same forward power linking with a deeper feeling of sincerity. John ropes the listener into the music with his direct addressal of “you”, his motivational tone driving the track. As electric undertones switch to something much more folky, its unsurprising to find Frank Turner himself pay contribution to the record, his vocals adding his classic light touch.

The more sincere side of the record begin to show in Night Falls Over Reno, with the softer and slower sound only enhancing the focus on the lyricism, with clever metaphors making the track incredibly poetic. For a title like Springtime, the song that accompanies it is almost dreary. Although the optimism does it’s best to prevail, the darker sound draws attention to the instrumental which in turn reflects the lyrics excellently.

Whilst Blood Brothers feels a rather typical title, it’s not a typical song with the fifth track being the longest on the release. It’s here, in these six minutes, that the subtle confidence shines in his music, and such lengths give the chance to showcase his talent as a man unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Breaking into the second half of the album, Rock’n’Roll Romeos unsurprisingly injects life back into the music, with John’s punk and almost-grunge edge being dipped into through the electric side. With massive positivity, this is a song to dance to.

It’s Raining Every Day drops into the musky and doomy level of his music, before the flurrying opening of Freedom makes it impossible not to love how well put together the tight instrumental is, let alone the entire album. A punky build up to a fantastic finale leads into moral-inspiring Lessons I Have Learned, an accessible track for anyone to enjoy and one to turn to on a rainy day when the world isn’t on your side. Token piano-driven close Famous Last Words is too sobering to criticise; John’s talent peaks here with earnest longing filling the central line, “when I’m gone, will you remember my name?”

With confidence, John delivers a spectacular album that will win over fans hearts worldwide; boasting optimism and honesty in equal measure, the record is both accessible and personal, and a stand-out throughout.

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