Album Review: Ryan Allen – Song Snacks Vol. 1 by Extra Arms (2020) (Self Released)

I received a bit of criticism during lockdown. This was strange as I have always considered myself relatively brilliant. The object of the limited scorn was my opinon about all lockdown music being rubbish. It got so nasty, I nearly cried.
Over the last week or so, I have changed the ‘all’ to ‘most’, as a few decent albums appear to be emerging on the final waves of the misty eyed ‘woe is me and my life is so bad’ sea of totally self indulgent ‘pandemic music’.
This album is the antidote to all that slush and is a veritable source of opening track fodder for any ‘best of lockdown’ compilation that might eventually slip onto a cassette label somewhere.
Essentially a Ryan Allen project, rather than the full Extra Arms band treatment, he invites us to journey with him on his own personal version of the under two minute, stream of consciousness feel, that was so essential about The Minutemen’s, Double Nickels on the Dime ethos.
Initially, tracks such as Real Palm Reader, Trash Mountain and Throw The Shit in the Shoot are the torchbearers for those moments when Allen forgets any melodic intent and crashes through the back end of, almost brutal, 90’s alternative rock. 
However, he is an artist with many musical guises and is a master of tempo shift. As such the relaxation of the manic, added to a suggestion of the roughhouse blue collar power-pop of The Hold Steady that ultimately settles nearer to the ramshackle of Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever, reminds the listener that Allen / Extra Arms can be amongst the best of jangle rock’s proponents.
Other complete tempo shifts sees the album truly excel, as Truth Surgery, Leg Tattoo and You’re Lunch provides a trip through variants of subtle jangly lo-fi rock, whereas the smoothest, most melodic sounds of the psyche laden 1960’s are laced through Here Comes The Rain, I’m A Wizard Now and Raspberry Ghost.
Without the doleful, dewy eyed desperation of much that the ‘virus vibe’ has offered, this is the sound of an artist enjoying the music he loves and thriving on the extra time to make it. You see having to wear a permanent hanky on your face is not all bad !

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