Super 8: “Turn Around Or…”

You can preview and purchase “Turn Around Or…” on BandCamp.

Imagine an artist profoundly influenced by Ray Davies, the “McCartney / Ram” Macca, Brian Wilson, and the Country Rock twang of The Byrds. That’s not hard to do…those artists have entertained and inspired for half a century. But what happens when an artist lets that all out in one song?

What happens is Paul Ryan, AKA Super 8.

After I had a chance to listen to “Turn Around Or…,” I shared some of my impressions with Paul. He told me “I can enjoy & appreciate contemporary music (to an extent!) but the music I hear walking round the shopping malls says nothing to me about my life and, as a rule, it doesn’t tend to move me in the way the dog-eared ‘life soundtracks’ of my record collection do.”

That’s a profound and telling statement from the artist…because, in Paul’s wheelhouse, it’s all one landscape, one backdrop, one pallete, and…as the artist…he should be free to use as many, or as few, colors as he chooses to paint his masterpieces. Is DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa” art because it looks like something we expect to see, and is Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” not art because it doesn’t?

Paul’s influences are neither uncommon nor unique. But most artists who share them would customarily write a Davies song, a McCartney song, a Wilson songs…three songs. No, every song isn’t complex and intertwined and an exercise in “spot the influence.” Some are more linear and straightforward, while others employ the Brian Wilson ethic of “let’s see what we have at our disposal, we’ll put in what looks like it will work, keep what does, and remove whatever doesn’t.”

“Hey Mr. Policeman” starts it off, with what sounds like Ray Davies in a supergroup with David Bowie and Marc Bolan, plus an added Flying Burrito Brothers / Byrds twang (“Hey Mr. Spaceman,” anyone?) and a “la la la la, la la la” finale and a big brass band. These aren’t lightweight pop songs, folks. This one has layer after layer of pop goodness.

“Mary Jane” has a nice 80s New Wave feel on top of a Brian Jones-era Stones vibe. Laid back, easy-going and echoes of mid-sixties British Invasion harmony-based rock/pop groups.

“Serious Drugs” is another song that’s Kinda Kinks…I’m three songs in here and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say “Ray Davies is an influence,” and in a good way, bringing back the feeling you had from all of the band’s early hits. The vocals on all of the tracks are nicely arranged, with every “oooh” and “ahhh” exactly where you need them to be, and there’s even a touch of Brian Wilson on this track.

“Smile” opens with a burst of electric guitar before settling into gently strummed acoustics, percussion and more great harmony vocals. Then the band gets plugged back in with another cool, twangy guitar solo. The “only you can make me cry” rave up is another flash of Stones, before ending on a strummed and muted chord.

That’s just the first four songs…the rest of the album unfolds with the same “whatever is appropriate for the song is going in” alchemy.

If you share Paul’s view that “conventional” contemporary music leaves you feeling a little flat, go for something unconventional…“Turn Around Or…”