John Mayer – Sob Rock
A John Mayer album release is revered by many as a musical phenomenon worth counting down to, thanks to his virtuosic musicianship, cult hits and a career spanning over two decades. This time the wait for the eighth studio album, Sob Rock, has been four years, with some tracks released as early as 2018. It’s certainly not an unexplainable a phenomenon – this is a record from an artist who is superbly and hilariously self-aware, as he ushers in a new musical chapter that is unashamedly and nostalgically 80s.
Sob Rock screams of the era, but with surprisingly quiet volume. Layering self-deprecation and synths, the musician for the most part deliberately avoids his signature dramatic solos. Instead, the record does exactly what it says on the tin: mid-tempo, soft, “sob” rock jamming, with added nods of emotion. Through apparent tears, it’s hard to tell how serious Mayer is, for example, when he sings, “Why you no love me?” about unrequited love. There’s an equal mix of heartbreak without being overly-emotional and humour without being funny, and musings alongside musical conviction.
Fans will already be familiar with tracks like New Light and Carry Me Away. Musically, these may already be the album’s highlights, containing effortless bounce and catchiness. Ideally, there would have been more fresh material to satisfy the next four years, but within the brand new releases, there are some gems and growers: Wild Blue features some complex flourishes that aren’t necessarily apparent upon first listen and Till the Right One Comes is perhaps the most similar to some of Mayer’s older music. The more upbeat tracks work better than the sob-driven ballads, where some deliberate tackiness comes across as just plain cheesy and other moments are more forgettable. The album crescendos to a triumph, however, by finale All I Want is to Be with You. With its satisfyingly explosive guitar riff, it’s undoubtedly a taste of how Mayer’s famous live shows may play out. It’s easy to picture and surely now simply a matter of time.
Widely considered as one of this generation’s musical greats, the bar was already self-set pretty high. Whilst his approach and delivery is slightly hit-and-miss and Sob Rock probably won’t be a new 80s classic, it ultimately sounds like a successful, comfortable artist having fun in a new (/old) direction, whilst enjoying his own company. The formula is a smart evolution for someone like John Mayer and a fun listen for everyone else.
Sob Rock is released on 16th July 2021. For further information or to order the album visit John Mayer’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Shot in the Dark here: