Album Review: Only Real – Jerk at the End of the Line

By on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 12:00 pm

Only Real Jerk at the End of the Line coverIt was November 2013 when Only Real flew smack dab onto TGTF’s radar. But South Londoner Niall Galvin gave the big dance in Austin a pass last year. Delaying his appearance at the world’s biggest music festival by one year was the right choice: he showcased at a well attended evening at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy for the week, sponsored by Blackjack London and the Association of Independent Music in the UK (AIM), where punters totally fell in love with his sunny, slacker style of music right at home on a lazy Friday night fuelled by too much booze and the inevitable exhaustion that comes with the week that is SXSW Music. His appearances in Austin were timed perfectly to show off tunes from his debut album for Virgin / EMI, ‘Jerk on the End of the Line’.

For the debut, Galvin halved his time between Atlanta and London, working with producer Ben Allen (behind the most recent Kaiser Chiefs album ‘Education, Education, Education and War’) and Speedy Wunderground label boss Dan Carey in Streatham, South London, to create an enjoyable listen and certainly an album that come true summer will be spun on open-top convertible CD decks. Fans familiar with his past releases -2013 EP ‘Days in the City’, monster hit ‘Cadillac Girl’, singles ‘Backseat Kissers’ and ‘Blood Carpet’, more recent single ‘Pass the Pain’ – will recognise and appreciate his past bangers, but there are also some excellent new entries on the LP as well.

After listening to ‘Jerk…’ closely, something fascinating to me came out about Galvin’s music: despite that sunny, beachy exterior and the psych-ey, slightly out of tune guitars driving the pop melodies forward, there is lyrical depth available to the listener, if one so chooses to seek it out. He also manages the feat of effortlessly blending the happy-go-lucky style of surf rock with what usually comes across far less bright, lyrics delivered in a hip hop style. Yet the overall effect is as pop and feels as wholesome as sucking on an iced cherry lolly in the middle of Latitude.


A single in early 2015, ‘Yesterdays’ is pure pop goodness for sure, but its chorus- “it’s in the way we were made, yesterdays” – exhibits a wistfulness, even if abstract, in the way things are. He’s not wanting them to change, he observes them as “it is what it is” and can be positive about it. I view this as Galvin’s quirky attempt to express “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Considering how down people are about life, the government, economy, etc., we could all use an injection of positivity, and what a friendly nudge in the right direction this is. With its strident guitar notes and electro beats and shuffles, another album standout ‘Daisychained’ takes a look back at happier times and our desire to hold onto those moments.

While Galvin is clearly someone who doesn’t take life too seriously, jumping into a bathtub full of Froot Loops for our benefit in last year’s ‘Pass the Pain’ promo, he shows his emotional side in some songs here, wearing his heart on his sleeve when it comes to failed relationships. He asks forlornly, “do you think of me at all? / ‘Cause it feels like we were already strong” in recently unveiled ‘Can’t Get Happy’. This is quickly followed up on the album with ‘Blood Carpet’, in which Galvin insists, in a Beach Boys-esque harmony, “oooh, I can’t forget you…at all.” The oddly mesmerising, repeated minor key guitar line in ‘Break It Off’ appropriately conveys the sorrow of being broadsided by the end of a relationship (“I thought that it would be me / to break it off / look at me now”) and the subsequent attempts to shake it off (“enough about love, it’s back to the lust”). Yes, even laid-back skaters can get their hearts broken. Sadface. Even with the heartstrings being tugged, Galvin does a good job of it, pulling off a catchy beat and unforgettable melodies.


Only two songs on the album deviate from the formula. ‘Petals’ sees Galvin go into a darker, moodier direction, channeling Dre, Snoop and the ’90s hip hop he explained in my interview with him in Austin that he loves. Closing track ‘When This Begins’ also exhibits dramatic shade, as Galvin sings, “I don’t want to wait no more / I never used to / guess I’m all grown up”. There comes a point in time that all young people realise they must accept responsibilities that come with being an adult. I don’t think he will completely leave the fun Only Real persona behind because having met him, I know that’s him. He’s a happy guy and his business is helping others escape into his sunny world. But if my chat with him in Austin is anything to go by, he’s choosing to and ready to take on even bigger things in the very near future. I’m looking forward to see what he does next.


‘Jerk at the End of the Line’, Only Real’s debut album for Virgin / EMI, is out today.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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