This ‘Ryan Hamilton’ article was written by Ben Whitfield, a GIGsoup contributor
Try to feel sad while listening to the opening track of Ryan Hamilton’s new album Hell of a Day, I bet you can’t. Be Kind Rewind’s lyrics match its melody – upbeat and positive – setting the tone for a record made for the summer.
Hell of a Day is rock and roll and pop and sugar-punk all rolled into one, the melodies are not complex but it’s their simplicity that makes them catchy and their harmonies that make them powerful. The man can write chorus that’ll have you drumming your fingers on your steering wheel for weeks to come, couple this with a knack for writing the kind of lyrics that encapsulate hard-to-define sentiments that hold a mirror up to your own experiences and you’ve got something worth having.
The album is both wide-ranging and constant: Karaoke With No Crowd (the first single) sounds like one of Green Day’s more ballad-like efforts. Records and Needles – the eighth track- sounds as though he has Garth Brookes on guitar and any of The Eagles on backing vocals. Love is Such a Chore sounds as though it’s a cover of a Bob Dylan song (think Maggie’s Farm with added sweetener). In short – this is an eclectic album made consistent by its unfailing optimistic drive.
Hamilton’s influences shine through brightly but not blindingly, no one is calling him a Tom Petty cover band, there’s enough originality in both his vocals and song-writing to set him apart. Having said that – I’m not sure that there’s enough of gulf between his solo effort and his collaboration with Bowling for Soup’s Jarret Reddick (People On Vacation) to warrant an entire album. I’ve always felt that a side project (and technically Hell of a Day is a side project of a side-project as Hamilton’s original band is Smile Smile) should be distinctive and dissimilar enough to necessitate its existence. Listen to The Gaslight Anthem and then listen to the lead singer’s side-project The Horrible Crowes and you’ll hear that he was desperate to unleash a darker side to his story-telling songs, or Shone; Brand New’s drummer’s side-project sounding like The Talking Heads on hallucinogens. These records are miles from their inceptor’s roots and therefore justify their being. If Jarret Reddick had taken a few verses on Hell of a Day or sang a few choruses here and there it would not be considered a People on Vacation album that strayed too far from the first, the similarity is clearest on the track Respond to my Email (You Bitch).
Despite the similarities between Ryan Hamilton and People on Vacation this is still a stand-out album that will make you smile, with lyrics that will strike a chord and stay with you.