Stumbling out of North London punk clubs with a battered acoustic guitar and tales of boozy nights and backstreet brawls, Rob Lynch takes stance as the anti-Ed Sheeran, all grit and gush, beer dreg ballads and down-and-out heartache. Appearances at Download and on the Warped Tour further enhanced his punky persona as a trashcan troubadour in the vein of Jake Bugg, Frank Turner or Jamie T, but dust away the scowly, tuneless delivery and pretty quickly it becomes clear that we’re dealing with an emo-folk strummer with a keen ear for a euphoric pop chorus.
A swarm of these singer-songwriter types with workaday, man-of-the-people accents first started sprouting up a few years back in the wake of Mike Skinner and Alex Turner’s zeitgeist-defining lyrical genius. The Sam Duckworth (aka Get Cape Wear Cape Fly), Jack Penate and Just Jack crowd were such a self-pitying, witless cliché that they were soon tucked away in a box alongside Kate Nash’s mockney “Bit-tah” song never to be talked of again. Gawd help us if Lynch is leading a new post-Sheeran strain of the virus. The symptoms seem worryingly familiar.
To be fair, the Lincolnshire lad’s outpouring of grief on debut album All These Nights Will Somehow Save My Soul does come from tackling the death of his father, not just a failed adolescent romance. Songs such as Some Nights, Medicine and Blame are open sores of pain and regret, delivered with an honesty and sincerity that it’s hard to begrudge. The poignancy is lost though with the bludgeoning lack of lyrical guile and the happy-clapping, uplifting climaxes.
Lead single My Friends & I is another big bromantic hugathon – that point in the night where blokes drunkenly open up over a septic-looking doner kebab and splutter out “I bwoody luv youw mate,” before passing out in face full of chilli sauce. True Romance too is a ‘totes emosh’ cosy ode to youth that could soundtrack a teary montage of Skins finales, whilst Broken Bones chest beats in defiance at small town troubles and sixth form worries in what could be his crossover anthem.
However genuine and confessional it all is though, the polished-up busker kid with a heart of gold is pretty unremarkable. You might look on admiringly if you saw him plunking away in a town centre and drop a penny in his guitar case, but the well-worn wisdom is pretty tripey and the tearjerking hoey best left to the teenage diaries.