Shiny Joe Ryan: Shiny Joe Ryan & The Cosmic Microwave Background

Shiny Joe Ryan orbits the whole Pond / Tame Impala cosmos. Is his debut a shooting star or space junk?

- Shiny Joe Ryan is the solo project of Pond bassist Joseph Ryan, and as this connection might suggest, his debut album, Shiny Joe Ryan & the Cosmic Microwave Background, is every bit the psychedelic pop record you’d expect. Featuring Nick Allbrook on drums and mastered by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, the album’s credentials alone should pique an immediate interest for any fans of heavily reverbed, guitar psych-pop from the West.

The many-headed beast that is the Tame Impala and Pond family tree has yielded a plethora of side projects and new artistic ventures over the past few years. Like a giant melting pot of West Australian talent, the loosely related acts include Allbrook/Avery, Mink Mussel Creek, GUM and of course, Shiny Joe Ryan, all of whom dabble in the scuzzy psychedelic sounds that have made Tame and Pond so successful. Derivative isn’t quite how you would describe these acts -because it’s their own sound in the first place- but there’s certainly a sense that whatever subtle differences may exist, at the end of the day it’s all a bit the same.

Nevertheless there are some standout tracks that hold the album up and keep things interesting just enough to keep you listening. Opening track Always Wanting More is an upbeat, synth-heavy pop song with reverbed vocals that surprisingly sound quite similar to French indie-pop giants, Phoenix. Whatever Happened To The Space Race? is a great, high energy dance tune that gives the top of the album a nice one-two punch. The Cosmic Microwave Background Pt.1 slows the pace for an experimental ballad with wailing guitars and layers of synths. Unfortunately Ryan’s vocals don’t really hold up on this more demanding track and it’s a similar story throughout many of the songs. What he’s lacking in vocal strength, Ryan does make up for with catchy hooks and experimental sonic textures. This is particularly true of Hold On For The Ride, which features sitar solos and plenty of 60's organ layered over distant vocals and plenty of synth noise.

Shiny Joe Ryan’s sound is a nod to Pond more often than not: there are many similarities in everything from instrumentation to composition. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being the same: if you’re doing something well then it’s logical to wish to continue down that creative path. Many great records have been the result of pushing the boundaries of well-known genres into unexpected places, but in the case of Shiny Joe Ryan, there’s just not quite enough that’s new or exciting to differentiate it from its contemporaries.

- Clare Armstrong.

Album Details

Album Title: Shiny Joe Ryan & The Cosmic Microwave Background
Artist: Shiny Joe Ryan
Record Label: (Spinning Top)