Thursday, February 04, 2021

Making Bob Pollard look like a slacker—Ryan Allen just can't stop!

While many have struggled creatively during this pandemic, a rare few have taken all this "free time" as an opportunity to just kick out as much music as they can. And few have kicked out as much music in the last year as Ryan Allen

Allen has always excelled at cranking out crunchy power pop gems with an edge under the Extra Arms moniker, but in 2020 he released a number of albums and EPs under his own name and a number of other guises, including a late '80s-stylee hardcore EP about quarantine and another EP with some light shoegaze ditties

So I would've understood should the man take a break to catch his breath in 2021, but I should've known better.

His latest album, What A Rip, comes out tomorrow, February 5, and while I would have forgiven Allen for releasing something even average after his recent avalanche of releases, it appears he will have none of that and insists on writing taut, sizzling numbers that will make you want to buy a guitar. And maybe some drums. And definitely try and figure out how the dude is doing all of this from home, and largely on his own!

Musically, Allen sticks close to his strengths on What A Rip, relying on a bottomless bag of hooks and memorable, hummable, sing-alongable vocal melodies that burrow in, ready to warm the space between your ears in even the most frozen winter months. It's summer in here, dammit! But he does play with tempo a little more than on his last few albums, so maybe that's a sign the anxiety and adrenaline I suspect may have driven the recent spate of Allen's releases have dropped to manageable levels? If so, it certainly hasn't hurt his drive, but it has introduced some new varieties and flavors to his songwriting I haven't heard in there before.

The lovely, loping bassline in "Feeling You Feeling Me" is definitely a newer move for Allen, and much of the album seems to draw from older inspirations, including the dustier corners of the Beatles' catalog and even some latter-era Monkees of the Head variety. While these inspirations drive the music on What A Rip, it always sounds 100% Allen. 

I've loved everything he's put out over the last year but What A Rip is the first time it's felt like Allen is slowing down to explore a little bit more, and the new terrain he uncovers suits his travels well.

Give it a spin and you'll see what I mean.

NOTE: So, while I know Allen would be somewhat groaning at that headline since it includes a comparison to a hero of his he might not agree with, it is true. Eat your heart out Robert Pollard!

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