Manchester-based singer-songwriter, John Tiller, has released his new EP, Battle Ready, four tracks of acoustic guitar confessionals with a heavy emphasis on lyrics.
Tiller’s influences are obvious enough – Springsteen most obviously, Dylan less so…less still Tom Waits, an artist he seems to aspire to looking at his social media but who is truly on another plain, though the implied musical relationship does at least explain the EP’s content to some extent.
Battle Ready is stuffed to the gills with metaphor and allegory, indeed any fish treated in such a manner should call the language police immediately. It is, rightly or wrongly, very self-indulgent. Line after line tip-toe around double and triple meanings – falling; sleeping; breaking; remaining – in the space of the title song alone he’s having a shocker of a day. There’s no obvious backstory to back-up the woe – there doesn’t NEED to be but it feels a little hollow. We go around the houses so many times that by the end of the track we’re in danger of forgetting what the problem was in the first place.
The Tinman isn’t about a Tinman, naturally and the lyrics are a much-tangled affair, though kudos for the use of the word ‘ligatures’, very pleasing. Musically, it’s light and appealing, a less broad echo of Peters and Lee’s Welcome Home , of all things. In fact, the musical element is the strongest element of the EP, deft arrangements and very proficient playing throughout, even on the stripped-down closer, Broken Now. In fact, this is the highlight of the EP, a case in point of ‘less being more’.
It’s admirable the sheer volume that Tiller has crammed into his tracks – if you only get one crack at being a professional musician, you may as well throw everything at it. However, as a listener, it felt more like it was written for the performer’s benefit than anyone else. A promising release, though in need of some judicious word pruning.