When Johnny Lloyd disbanded Tribes back in 2013, it was at the height of their success. Despite two top 40 records, support slots with PIXIES and The Rolling Stones and plenty of critical and commercial acclaim, the frontman still seemed creatively stifled, something apparent in the difference between the band’s records. While their debut was a scuzzy, grungy affair beloved by indie kids, their second was richer and warmer, its influence taken from the long highways and heat haze on the other side of the Atlantic.
Seemingly, it’s this aesthetic that Lloyd has taken with him into his solo career. While last year’s 'Next Episode Starts In 15 Seconds' was somewhat understated in its delivery, 'Cheap Medication' feels far more fleshed out, its ideas more established, than its predecessor, which though far from one- dimensional, seems as such when the two are analysed in sync.
Opening with the previously released ‘Suze’, Lloyd establishes a blissed-out bossa-nova vibe that’s crying for out the sound of lapping waves to accompany the subtle flute and dreamy vocal delivery. This easy-going nature is something that continues through the course of the record, in the guitar slides of following track ‘Real Thing’ or the singsong-esque ‘Haze’.
And well it might. Apparently, Lloyd hasn’t “been happier with a collection of songs for a long time. I feel really good about this and think there really is something on there for everyone”. It’s something that’s noticeable throughout 'Cheap Medication', with even the record’s most tender moments.
‘Based On Real Life’ for instance, dripping with a confidence unseen on its predecessor. It’s something that comes with Lloyd truly being able to spread his wings and do exactly what he wants. In this sense, Cheap Medication makes for something of an uncompromising release. Not that it’s a difficult listen, far from it, but it’s a release born from Lloyd answering only to himself.
There are echoes of Tribes at play here, but only their second album. There’s also echoes of artists like Springsteen or The Kinks, resulting in a record that feels almost timeless, a hazy and heady gauze layered over the record’s production allowing for Lloyd to release his love of americana more thoroughly than ever before.
Though it might well be true that there’s something on offer for everyone here, the most evident thing is that this is a record for Johnny Lloyd, and it’s all the better for it. Effortlessly easy going, it’s sunkissed and dust-caked and the perfect escape from the looming presence of a bleak British winter.
Words: Dave Beech
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