Allan Rayman | Harry Hard-On | Rating: 8/11 |
Harry Hard-On has something of a telltale heart.
Not the kind from a murdered dead guy that haunts Allan Rayman with the drone of its constant postmortem beating. No, not like that: that would be weird.
Instead, Rayman has flipped his mysterious script just enough to find himself a touch less shaded and shady than the “Mr. Roadhouse” persona that we’ve all come to know and love/be concerned about. With Harry Hard-On he’s informing on himself in a way that suggests perhaps he’s pumped up his inner volume and found some grace amongst the fucked up.
But don’t get it twisted: Rayman’s sense of self remains a jagged diagnosis of emotional imperfection, but his transition to Harry Hard-On feels more reflective and less the same hard ass, son-of-a-bitch loathe to waste the candles and wine that he prepped in order to get laid.
Why? Because on “Rose” Rayman comes to us unusually fragile in a way that we haven’t heard since “Kiss” and while the scenario may flirt with the darker side of adoration, it also peels back to the awkward and human. As the stories flow, so does the longing at bay in the chocolate sandpaper of Rayman’s voice and let’s just call it that “Amy” is his best vocal performance to date, shall we? Glad that we got that out of the way.
One of the most refreshing elements of the album could prove to be its most listener-challenging: the fact that Rayman leaned into feeling the rock and roll in his bones. Full-blooded and downright sexual beats ran hip-hop rivers through his first two albums (Hotel Allan and Roadhouse 01), but the grungy graze of guitar strikes lightning on Harry Hard-On making “Crush” a borderline head-banger even while “Never Any No Good” is elemental seductive Rayman in reverse, as at home here as occupying a room at the broodier Hotel Allan. Yet despite the shift and being his most sonically straightforward album, he fully flexes his rich, limber lyrical prowess. Rayman’s grasp on serving up eerily heady, artistic swagger and genre-indifferent pieces of himself has yet to fail him: he’s still precariously balanced on a razor-like edge of his best and worst tendencies.
Yes, it is a mere 31-minute ride in the passenger seat of Rayman’s mind, it’s the least strange of his musical adventures, and – truth be told – at its end, you may be left wanting. Not because of a lack of good songs or not being caught in his affecting and cinematic sounds, but because Rayman – once again – stokes your curiosity about who and what makes the character within tick. Coming full circle at album’s end leaves an uneasy closure due to being damned invested and with every listen, Harry Hard-On leads you on, telling just enough to make you quote Ariana Grande:
“Thank u, next.”