Ever since Frank Turner enjoyed surprise mainstream success with his post-Million-Dead acoustic solo project, there’s been a steady trickle of punk-tinged singer songwriters looking to emulate the campfire simplicity of the likes of Billy Bragg.
London-based hopeful Rob Lynch is the latest of those young pretenders, and does a convincing job on this promising second full length. Sonically, there’s been some serious beefing out compared to his 2014 debut All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul. Lynch’s easy acoustic charm has been supplemented, and mostly complemented, by the addition of a full band replete with harmonies and electric guitars.
Whether opening track ‘Prove It!’ is a statement of intent or a commentary on Lynch’s experience within the industry, or indeed life, is up for debate, but broadsides like “I didn’t come here looking for a gun fight, I came here for a good time” feel very much aimed with purpose, as he reasserts on the anthemic chorus “if you’ve got something to prove then just prove it”.
Whilst it’s been billed as a coming-of-age record, and there’s certainly more than a hint of that sentiment in the lyrical content, Lynch does at times seem like he still has plenty of growing left to do – in places the record veers a little towards youthful naivety, and whilst there’s a rustic charm in some of his stumbling phrases and clunky metaphors, it does at times risk straying into cliché. As a writer, Lynch has not yet quite managed to strike the magic balance in his lyrics - ‘Tectonic Plates’ is a prime example, where for every throwaway line like “security got mad at my dad for buying us Export cans, coz we were underage” there’s a genuinely touching and simple sentiment like “I don’t want to be somebody that you used to know, I see ghosts in all the places that we used to go”.
Elsewhere 'Sure Thing', as Lynch states, is a song 'about being in a bit of a slump and longing for someone to drag you out of it, whether that be through a person them self or through music/literature. The joyous nature of the music is supposed to win out over the downbeat lyrics to invoke an overall sense that everything will be alright.'
Where some writers are concerned with exploring material further afield, Lynch is definitely of the introspective nature; never a bad thing in itself, but it seems a shame to so rigidly limit his obvious talents to examinations of his own psyche and emotional state when there’s such a rich world of inspiration to draw from. At times like these we need strong and gifted voices like Lynch’s shouting loud about the injustice and chaos of the world. Hopefully it’s a case of 'know thyself' before wings are spread wider on future material.
What Lynch has got – and believe us, he’s got it in spades - is a canny knack for writing a melody and a belting chorus, which presumably goes a long way to explaining the call-and-response success of his reputedly life-affirming live shows. ‘Salt Spring’ is a late album highlight which probably benefits the most from the full band configuration and channels Pixies and early Weezer via a monstrous fuzz-box guitar tone. It’s a much more lo-fi and less poppy affair which he wears very well and comes with a belting, if short, guitar solo to boot.
There are some beautiful sentiments here about friendship, about family, about all the challenges and experiences that have made up the life of Rob Lynch to date, but ultimately it’s a record that feels like a somewhat delayed reaction to the 30-year-old’s teenage years. Perhaps ironically, ‘Youth’ is one of the most pertinent and mature tracks on the record, as he opines “all my friends are scared of growing old, but I’d rather grow old than not grow old at all” and ends defiantly - if perhaps a little regretfully - “youth doesn’t have to be wasted on the young”.
Baby, I’m A Runaway should find plenty of fans amongst Lynch’s younger crowd, but at times it can be hard to relate to some of the sentiments in the here and now, especially with a few years under your own belt. Whilst it’s certainly not a miss-fire, we’re more looking forward to hearing what Lynch has got to say on his next album – hopefully one that can feel a little more vital.
6Jamie Otsa's Score