Lynn Allen ‘STREETLIGHT': The Review
I finally saved up the $15 and got me that new CD from Lynn Allen, STREETLIGHT. Luckily, today also happened to be a drivin'-fast-with-the-windows-down kind of Spring day here in the Midwest. It's the perfect live-action to accompany this upbeat CD.
The 10th Lynn Allen CD opens with an earnest, frenetic Billy Peiffer trying to keep up with "Wheels Keep Turning." It's almost insulting to call Lynn Allen's recent work Power Pop, since that might imply light-hearted simple songs, which this collection is not. "Wheels" is a great look behind you while running to keep up with life as it's happening, and then suddenly you're there. And you're okay with that. You can almost feel the urgency in the verses.
I'm a big fan of Peiffer as a songwriter, and his musicians on this record are up to the challenge (Guitars from Paul DePauw and Colin Keemle, bass is Barry Vestal, and a great addition to the drums, Kevin Sampson). "Falling" is next, the story of how one moment can become the measure of a whole relationship. The music comes up around you, and with the right volume, you can physically feel the 'falling' happen if you've ever been there.
"What It Is" is Lynn Allen at their sarcastic best. A half-story the audience is forced to fill-in-the-blanks on. Is it angry or hopeful? In the vein of "What I Am" from a previous Peiffer album, the singer is unapologetic for being who he is, but softens a bit on this record. This song searches for an emotional middle ground. But then, he's back to "f.u" by the solo. The song is like laughing at someone who just walked into a glass patio door and spilled their coffee everywhere. You may hope they end up okay, but man it's fun to watch them splayed out everywhere.
The tile track is next, and 'Streetlight' is familiar territory for the band. It's a relationship ending in 4/4 time. Expectations left unmet, but a bit of self-doubt and a great hook bring up the Power Pop comparison. I love the guitars on this song.
The key to Peiffer's songwriting is that while he may be describing something personal, you can jump right in the seat next to him and live it too. So many of these topics have been sung about by so many (Lynn Allen Included) they could really run the risk of redundancy if they weren't crafted so well. Think John Mellencamp. Peiffer has the same ability to tell these stories from a place that's at the same time comfortable and awkward. I will buy tickets on that train every day.
'Kicking Myself' is more layering guitars and harmony. This song would be the first song in a Lynn Allen concert encore, with the lights flooding the audience with classic relationship regret. You could sing along with this song, even if you hadn't heard it before, because he could be singing the story of YOUR last best girl.
Frustration is the tempo of "Drive" as a broken-record fight scene plays out, she is fed up and leaves. She has clearly done this before, but there's a fear she might stay away this time. This is the best song on the record.
"I Will" is a reinterpretation of a song from Lynn Allen's last record and while it might be where Peiffer is now, I prefer the other version to this one. He captures the hopefulness of two people willing to leave it all behind, and trust in each other. He really slows it down for a different sound from the original. If you're looking for 3:00 minutes of ass-grabbing slow jam, this'll do.
The most traditional sounding Lynn Allen song on "STREETLIGHT" is 'Today She Is On Fire,' hopping somewhere between the sonic feel of Journey and Night Ranger tumbling down a hill together. There is a great guitar solo here, and the drumming is dancing right along like Sampson has been playing this for years. If rock radio had any stones, we'd be playing this song.
Peiffer is a sarcastic mofo, as anyone who'd been around him long enough will gladly tell you. In 'Friendzone Paradise' He wraps up a nice present of a tune here, again going between the girl and the guy's point of view. You'll remember being 21 hearing this song. "She's gonna back you up when she's swinging'..." is pure poetry.
The closer is a crunchy look at the girl you fell in love with, after you got involved with the "crazy" one called "She Is The One." It's a fun romp, but you can almost hear that he's making another bad decision.
All the songs on STREETLIGHT will happily keep you out after dark.