Not being ‘up to speed’ with these sorts of things recently (I’ve had my head buried in a novel called The Circle), I can’t tell you whether Johnny Lloyd’s debut album has had many reviews to date or not. Or if it has, whether they’ve been supportive or damning.
It would be easy, I think, to take Lloyd’s first solo record to task, given it’s straight-forward vocabulary and its simple, often easy rhymes (some of which sound initially like they were snatched out of the air or from the debris of other songs). But it’s this that fascinates me; it’s the simplicity that I like: the stripped back, unpretentious nature of it all.
It has the unapologetic air of a man writing in his flat, waiting for the next lightbulb realisation or next stream of consciousness to arrive (fleeting thoughts and nagging doubts are key to the record’s foundations, along with reflections on how life his has changed: and boy how it has changed).
Six years since his band Tribes split, Lloyd is now a dad of four months with mum Billie Piper and is a possibly wiser man. He is signed to Xtra Mile Recordings, original home of Frank Turner – who appears on the album and is a good friend – and raves about how they “just let me get on and make the record.”
And what a lovely record it is (is it a coincidence that some of the songs here could almost be darkened lullabies? Is it in fact a document of the times, as much for Lloyd and Piper – who appear all over the cover – as it is a piece of work for us?)
It certainly has a grown-up-ness about it, which is slightly at odds with the rock and rolling Lloyd of old. He conveys an unease about the world that is common among New Dads/Reconstructed Rock Musicians/anyone who doesn’t need peeling off the floor of The Hawley Arms every night any more. Not regretful, just more aware.
Although this shouldn’t undermine the faith that Lloyd has always had in people (lest we forget the feeling of community which his former band Tribes fostered, a forerunner of what’s happening now with Idles/Fontaines DC etc). The songs here look inside communities and across divides and then – with deft story telling – into the rough, romantic side of the doomed turning their lives around (see the track ‘Modern Pornography’ for evidence)
There are echoes of Jack White (on the title track) and Bob Dylan (on the aforementioned ‘Modern Pornography’ and ‘Mass Shooting’, and the harmonica-trading ‘Fix’); but there’s also evidence of The New Lloyd finding different ways of expressing himself, not least in the self-diagnosing ‘I Need Help’ and ‘Forced Therapy’ “(I got old today/I saw my reflection/didn’t recognise my face/the years they pass/but the memories they last”).
It’s as if the mists of youth, much to his surprise, have finally cleared. The priorities have changed. The possibilities have increased.
And it has maybe suddenly dawned on him that less (of a lot of things) is more. Simple.