Ron Gallo is delightfully hard to figure out. He takes the free-spirited, anti-capitalist ethos of 60s rock and mixes it with what the Black Keys think they sound like (good, spirited blues for $200, Alex), packaging it all into a CD you almost bought from the surprisingly excellent opening act at the last War On Drugs show you saw. His lyrics are incessantly entertaining, making it almost OK that he named his debut LP HEAVY META. On album opener “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me,” Gallo sings, “Let’s get a house, you and me and your 12 cats.” His delivery is sneeringly reminiscent of Dylan, singing such lines with a sincerity and confidence, as if the listener is crazy for smirking at this shack with a dozen cats. He should scan as annoying, but there’s something deliriously charming about this fractured soul spelling out the ills of humanity one song at a time.
The Philly born, Nashville-based songwriter first emerged with the modern Americana/folk band, Toy Soldiers, before leaving Pennsylvania for the warm grasp of country music’s capitol, introducing the city to a defiantly unsatisfied debutante, eager to take you out to lunch and then spit in your face because your politics are wack. Gallo has this innate ability—a tremendously tricky skill to hone—to dose his songs with humor, all the while lacing them with scathing social commentaries and a level of depth most garage rock acts never reach, let alone aim for. On HEAVY META, Gallo proved that he’s just a wiser and sharper songwriter than most people doing it. That trend continues on “It’s All Gonna Be OK,” the first single from Gallo’s forthcoming LP, Stardust Birthday Party, out October 5 via New West.
“It’s All Gonna Be OK,” which Noisey is premiering above, is nervous and twitchy, hallucinatory and repetitive with its scratchy and fidgeting guitar parts, until Gallo, sensing the growing unease, sings, “It’s all gonna be OK.” Good to know. I feel better already. Gallo kind of sounds like Michael Stipe on “It’s the End of the World,” except here, Gallo rattles off all of the shit tearing us apart before easing us with his oddly placating aphorism. Gallo’s philosophy comes as a sort of self-medication, as he tries to convince himself that this broken world can get better; if R.E.M. thought shit was going downhill then, how the fuck are we supposed to get anything done now? But Gallo works his way through insecurities and finds this blind faith to be comforting. He tells us:
it’s all gonna be OK, no matter what it is, because all feeling, thought and experience is temporary. could be in one second or 20 years but, to trust that it’s all going exactly as it should, is true and liberating. i like to remind myself of this often and figured might as well share this thought with others via a mostly one chord song featuring my trumpet debut heard in the outro of the song. it’s all gonna be OK is the main message, and “stardust birthday party” is me explaining WHY? from my own experience looking inside.
Not necessarily comforting for all, but what Gallo’s doing here is kind of the purpose of art: to distract from, and think about, often simultaneously. ‘The world is terrifying, why don’t I sing about it and play some trumpet because we’re all gonna die anyways?’ Not inspiring, but the beauty of Gallo lies in his ability to convey fun as the world’s on fire, to scream bloody mercy when everyone’s smiling. It’s not contrarian, it’s a deeper grasp of truth. “It’s All Gonna Be OK” may seem like an oversimplification, but Ron Gallo seems to have this shit figured out—or maybe it won’t be OK.
Will Schube is OK. Follow him on Twitter.
Ron Gallo’s Stardust Birthday Party is out October 5 via New West.
Aug 03 - Osheaga Festival - Montreal, QC
Aug 05 - Surf Lodge - Montauk, NY
Aug 12 - Palp Festival - Lausanne, CH
Aug 13 - Music W Festival - Pisa, IT
Aug 14 - Hanna Bi - Ravenna, IT
Aug 15 - Musicfestwochen - Wintherthur, CH
Aug 16 - Altenburg 1964 - Prague, CZ
Aug 17 - Bitterzoet - Amsterdam, NL
Aug 18 - Pukkelpop - Hasselt, BE
Aug 20 - Headrow House - Leeds, UK
Aug 21 - The Ritz - Manchester, UK*
Aug 22 - Moth Club, London, UK
Aug 23 - The Hope and Ruin - Brighton, UK
Aug 24 - Fuzz Club Festival - Eindhoven, NL
Aug 25 - Cabaret Vert Festival - Charleville-Mezieres, FR
Aug 29 - Relache Festival - Bordeaux, FR
Aug 30 - Gigante Festival - Guadalajara, ES
Aug 31 - Ebrovision Festival - Miranda de Ebro, ES
Sept 01 - Sintonitzza Festival - Barcelona, ES
Sept 02 - Joy Eslava - Madrid, ES*
Sept 04 - Hard Club - Porto, PT*
Sept 21 - Lincoln Calling Festival - Lincoln, NE
Nov 01 - Ace of Cups - Columbus, OH
Nov 02 - White Rabbit - Indianapolis, OH
Nov 03 - Raccoon Motel - Davenport, IA
Nov 04 - Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
Nov 06 - Garrison - Toronto, QC
Nov 07 - Ministere - Montreal QC
Nov 08 - ArtsRiots - Burlington, VT
Nov 10 - First Unitarian Church - Philadelphia, PA
Nov 11 - Brighton Music Hall - Boston, MA
Nov 12 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn New York
Nov 13 - DC9 - Washington, DC
Nov 14 - Kings Barcade - Raleigh, NC
Nov 15 - The Royal American - Charleston, SC
Nov 16 - The Earl - Atlanta, GA
Nov 17 - Basement East - Nashville, TN
* - w/ The Black Angels