John Allen- Sophomore (Gunner Records)

Posted: January 22, 2015 in Reviews

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This album is the second album of folk-punk singer John Allen, which I guess is obvious as it’s called Sophomore. The first one was Sounds of Soul and Sin. John Allen is from Hamburg, Germany. He recently went on a tour called Allen Ginsberg tour with Joe Ginsberg, and the name of the tour is pretty cool. Sophomore starts off with “New Year’s Eve”, which is a really good and catchy tune. The song has clever lyrics about how pointless the day really is and how it’s just an excuse to get loaded, and how everyone wants this year to be different, when it probably won’t be, while finding pictures of yourself that you can’t remember the day after. The instrumentation in the song is great! At first listen I wasn’t too keen on the voice, but it gets a lot better with time and there’s much warmth and honesty in it. However, in the end, it does get too monotonous for my taste. Although he is German, I think there is something Irish about his accent, which I find cool for a folk-punk album that isn’t in the style of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphy’s. “Night Falls Over Reno” is a great song, Allen sings “All our accidents have meaning”, which is a great line when you think of it. I can hear a Chuck Ragan influence throughout the album. “Blood brothers” is long, but the lyrics are beautiful in a Frank Turner serenading way. And Frank Turner is also someone I can hear a lot of influences from. This is most particularly heard in the song “Home”, which I feel would fit in on Sleep is For the Week. Both the lyrics and melody seems very Frank Turner-esque; not only that, but Mr. Turner also does guest vocals on it.

The strength of the album is its ability to be both slow and upbeat, and the lyrics are of good quality. “Rock ‘n’ roll Romeos” is an upbeat and fun song about Rock n roll Romeos looking for Juliet’s love, but she’s gone. While “It’s Raining Every Day” is a slower folk song, it has the lyrics “Dying is much simpler than it looks like/Living is much harder than it seems”, which struck a nerve in me. It also has a Joan Jett reference, I think (“I hate myself for loving you”). The album’s weakness is that some of the songs are a bit long and that the vocals get monotonous and the melodies sound a bit too similar. “Lessons I Have Learned” is another great track, which to me resembles the Frank Turner song (here he comes again!) “Take You Home”. I’m not sure if it’s a reference or blatant plagiarism, or they could both be based on an old folk song. “Take You Home” is alongside “Tell Tale Signs” my favorite Frank Turner song. The last song of the album is the piano based “Famous Last Words”, which is beautiful and sincere and later a string arrangement builds up the song to its climax. To me, it is reminiscent of another Turner, Alex, from Arctic monkeys, who wrote the music for the movie “Submarine” that is way better than his band. The song also has a later era Billy Bragg feel to it mixed with Sun Kil Moon. So I think this is a pretty nice folk punk album that fans of Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan, Paul Baribeau and probably Sun Kil Moon, too, should love!

RH

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Comments
  1. […] John Allen is a German folk singer, who just released his second album Sophomore at the end of 2014. Read Hard already reviewed that here if you missed it: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/john-allen-sophomore-gunner-records/ […]

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