Do you remember rock and roll radio? The harmonies, the hooks, the choruses? Johnny Payne does. Or more specifically, he remembers that beautifully fucked up arc of let’s say ’70 to ’76, that time when the impossibly bright lights of an entire generation’s youthful idealism gave way to the muted amber glow of adult burn-out. You might know Johnny Payne as co-frontman of shaggy-pop auteurs The Shilohs. You might even know their three largely unheard albums of impeccably rendered pop rock. But this is something else. Where The Shilohs are a working rock band in the classic sense (remember when there were working rock bands?) Payne has ditched the band to strike out on his own as a bona fide solo singer-songwriter and the result is the almost self-titled EP Johnny.
Craving an escape from the endless parade of yoga mats and craft beer culture that defines his native Vancouver, Payne accepted the invitation of Pat Riley and Alaina Moore (of indie heavyweights Tennis) to record in their home studio in Denver, Colorado. Working closely with Riley and Moore, trading instruments and ideas, and with Beach House drummer James Barone in tow, Payne came out the other side with the solo EP Johnny. These five songs find Payne pushing his craft into full on adult-contemporary mode, channeling the visionary spirit of Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, even Carole King. Remember a time when even a weirdo like Todd Rundgren could score a soft rock top hit? Johnny Payne does.
On Johnny the vibe is all chipped champagne glasses and smeared bathroom mirrors, all the busted stuff that collects in the wake of one’s life. Standing alone at the microphone, Payne shows himself for who he is on these songs – a grown man having to let go of the past. There are tears of regret, tears of joy. There are red roses, blue oceans, and slow golden mornings spent staring out the window as the world drifts by. So light a smoke, have another sip, and enjoy the good times while they last – here comes Johnny.