Opening with a booming, distorted guitar riff immediately draws you in to Sperry Alan’s newest album, “Before Our Time.” The upbeat tempo of album opener “Hold On Tight” is quite driving, as John Alan Sperry’s voice is utterly captivating. The song is a quick burst of energy, and that’s what I really like about it. It’s less than two minutes in length, but it manages to get the job done in that short period. In fact, five of the nine tracks on the album are under two minutes in length including “I Maintain,” “Give Me A Warning,” “As I Get Older,” and “Pig.” These songs become more fascinating to me due to this similarity, and it leads me to have a stronger appreciation for Mr. Sperry’s song writing abilities. Before listening to the album in full, I think it’s important to know that “Before Our Time” is an autobiographical record for Sperry, but the story goes way deeper than that. This record documents Sperry’s decision against committing suicide. Knowing this information gives a whole new meaning to the album, as he invites the public to examine something extremely personal. With that being said, a decision against suicide is a great decision to make, and that notion is entirely hopeful and motivational.
A very distinct highlight from the album is “Made of Mistakes I Am.” The piano is catchy and inviting, allowing Sperry’s vocals to really soar as he sings, “I raise my hand; I know I am the man. I raise my voice; it is my own choice.” These lyrics are empowering and encouraging to hear, even if you’re not going through the exact same struggles that he was. The song continues to build over that wonderfully and simply sweet piano part with lines such as “I am my own home,” and “it brightens my memory to hear the old tune. Feel my own words as they’re coming from you.” The guitar’s distortion provides us with a notable change in the song. It quickly becomes much more rock ‘n’ roll sounding, before incorporating the piano back in at the end to end the track in a most beautifully poetic way.
My favorite track on the album is “Give Me A Warning.” The clarity of the guitar riff is refreshing, and the drums are intricate, yet entrancing. I could listen to that drum lick for hours on end and not get bored. The song is short, yet powerful in its repetition. The lyrics to the whole track read, “Stay ‘til the morning has come. Wait ‘til the morning to run. Stay until morning has come. Wait until morning to run. Give me a warning, please, before you leave.” The message is clear, and the desperation in Sperry’s delivery is obvious. The track feels honest and rich in emotion. There is no shortage of those qualities on this album. Especially knowing the backstory of “Before Our Time,” it’s hard not to sit down and allow yourself to really be affected by Sperry’s art.
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Not only do Sperry’s lyrics allow us to emote in countless ways, but his guitar playing and his production decisions create an emotional roller coaster, as you listen to each track. A great example of this is in the album closer, “Pig.” There are no lyrics in this track, but the distorted guitars, along with the reverberating drums create an anthem-like vibe, ending the album ever so wonderfully. The song is just under a minute in length, and it doesn’t need to be any longer than that. “Before Our Time” is a hopeful and rich album that becomes meaningful even if the music isn’t exactly your cup of tea. The message is more important than that, as Sperry takes us through a range of emotions, instilling in us that choosing life is always the right choice. As his lyrics read in “I Maintain,” he says, “choose to forgive and maintain.” Well said.
Article: Alex Feigin