With his debut album ‘All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’, Lincolnshire-born punk rock troubadour Rob Lynch has taken a leap of faith and scored a perfect ten. Marrying the often disparate disciplines of infectious musicality and genuinely meaningful lyrics with absolute finesse, this acoustic-led record sees Lynch slap his heart down on the table and get his audience singing their lungs out in one fell swoop.
Each song can and does speak to you on some level; if you’ve ever drunk too much and not given a damn, lost something you love or even just been lost yourself, this record tells you in the best possible way that you’re not alone, and that everything will be okay. I say the best possible way because the songs are exceptionally, unusually, true to the subject matter; album highlight ‘My Friends and I’, with its refrain ‘My friends and I, we’ve got a lot to live fo-o-o-or, my friends and I, we live the good life, at least just for tonight’ tears along with joy in its heart, exactly as a song like that should do. It’s so genuine, so heart-on-sleeve, that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it.
But this is only half the story, because this record is also deeply, intensely personal. On the slow-burning ‘Whiskey’, Lynch recalls visiting his father, who died when he was 21, in hospital, where he heard him telling patients around him about a night when the two of them drunk too much whiskey and played each other their favourite songs; in doing so, he creates a perfect song which drips emotion at the same time as delivering an irresistible melodies – this is essential listening.
This incredibly successful formula is revisited on ‘Stamford’, a song which will appeal to those with the King Blues’ debut album still on repeat, and which looks back with a heavy heart while vowing that ‘I’ve still got a lot of love’. Similarly, ‘Feeling Good’ carries an infectious hopefulness stretched across the melancholy upon which the record is built. This melancholy is extremely close to the surface on the stripped-back ‘Some Nights’, bleeding through Lynch’s sincere vocals to producing a haunting antithesis to the more energetic cuts on the album, and is present too on ‘Blame’, an honest self-examination couched within a simple chord progression. Meanwhile the gentle ‘True Romance’ is an end-of-the-night reflection on love, and ‘Medicine’ bounces along regardless of its grave subject matter.
Elsewhere things get more energetic, with ‘Hand Grenade’ living up to its name and closing track ‘Widow’ building to a rousing crescendo to round off the album in perfect style, with against-all-odds positivity dancing in the face of adversity. ‘Broken Bones’, which follows on from acoustic album opener ‘31/32’, is boisterous in all the right ways, and boasts one of the finest choruses on the album, a serious achievement when considered alongside the competition.
There is no doubt that that ‘All These Nights In Bars…’ is one of the best records of the year – that’s just a fact. Coming from the stable of Xtra Mile Recordings, one of the most aptly-named labels in the world, it was always going to be good, but even by their high standards this is excellent, Lynch’s every word, chord and breath is heartbreaking yet utterly compelling and completely inclusive at the same time, all underpinned by an inimitable punk-rock authenticity, an ear for a catchy vocal melody and a determination to focus always on positivity. Over the 39 and a half minutes it takes to listen to the record from start to finish, you’ll feel like you’ve spent a night drinking in a bar with Rob Lynch, and he might just have somehow saved your soul as well as his own.
Words - Joe Ponting
Out now via Xtra Mile Recordings