With his Portland based band The Cry on hiatus, singer/songwriter Tommy Ray has been busy channeling his music into various projects over the last couple of years. Following an album release from his street punk side project The Decayed, and his most excellent 2020 long player ‘First Hits Free’, Tommy wastes no time delivering his sophomore solo album ‘Handful Of Hits’ to the rock n’ roll world.
Seen as a companion album to the aforementioned ‘First Hits Free’, this new collection of songs is as honest, gritty and 4 real as you wanna get.
So what does our leather clad, feather-haired rock n’ roll singer offer this time around? Well, these are simple songs from the heart, with themes that cover his ongoing mental health struggles, and the trials and tribulations of modern life, and how to lose the girl you wanna love.
‘Handful Of Hits’ is a solo album in every respect. Tommy wrote everything, played everything and self-produced this album. And what a gloriously ramshackle collection of songs we have here. Going by his “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus” mantra, Tommy references The Exploding Hearts, Ramones and The Beach Boys as influences in his songwriting, and his love of 3-minute pop songs is always evident. You see Tommy Ray has a knack for penning a melody or two and understands the fine art of a catchy chorus.
Opener ‘In Love Again’ is a jangly, power pop anthem straight outta ‘77. It has an instant chorus and a sense of immediacy to it. There’s a sense of euphoria that goes perfectly with the lyrical theme of falling in love feeling like the first time every time.
The honest lyricism throughout the album is to the point. Getting laid (sometimes failing) and getting fucked up (never seeming to fail at that one!). You see like Johnny Thunders before him, Tommy Ray exudes the self-destruction blues, but you can tell he is just a soppy romantic at heart.
Rebelling with teenage kicks and trying to win the girl that is out of your league are the order of the day. The likes of ‘Closer To You’ and lead single ‘No, No, No, No’ are testament to that.
Tommy channels the likes of Hanoi Rocks and the New York Dolls to perfection on the likes of ‘On My Wall’, a Johnny Thunders inspired tale of wasting days and wasted love. Again, on the punky ‘Loser’s Anthem’ and the ode to one-night stands that is ‘Beer, Wine and Whiskey’. Urgent beats, one finger piano prowess and glam rock goodness are the order of the day.
‘Feel The Pain’ is killer power pop fodder, make no mistake. This is the sorta thing Tommy knocked out in The Cry day after day, no problemo. Instant, catchy and euphoric, this is a radio friendly hit that should be. You will be singing along wondering how you lived without this song in your life. Likewise, ‘Always Running’ will make you realise you needed someone to mash up the glorious retro sound of The Knack and XTC into one 3-minute pop song. We end with Tommy running from the law on ‘I Didn’t Do It’, one glitter boot stomping in front of the other. He tells us he didn’t do it in his wicked vocal drawl to an accompaniment of bombastic drums and handclaps and general 70’s retro glam rock vibes all over, what’s not to like here?
With a DIY ethos, power pop sensibilities and a punk rock attitude, Tommy Ray delivers another fine collection of songs that will fit nicely in your record collection alongside your heroes and possibly some of his too.
If songs about chasing love and getting fucked up from a guy who looks and sounds like he’s been dragged through the hedge of life backwards in his creepers, then look no further than ‘Handful Of Hits’. Like I said, a gloriously, ramshackle collection of tunes available on vinyl from the Bandcamp link below. Go fill yer boots!
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Author: Ben Hughes