Originally published at The Under Age on 30 July 2014

Melbourne-based Tom ‘Allday’ Gaynor’s debut album Startup Cult has arrived after a slew of free mixtapes from the former stand-up comedian, marking a solid debut venture for the emcee. While the album is a tier below the best Oz hip-hop releases of 2014 — Thundamentals, Funkoars, Briggs, etc. — Allday’s album shows glimpses of the game-changing pop-rap savvy that has been behind his quick rise to prominence. From his early mixtape releases, the progression in the Adelaide native is clear. The Sunni Colon-assisted ‘Wolves’ smacks of Allday’s ‘Girl in the Sun’ with Brady James from his Loners Are Cool mixtape, retaining the laidback harmonies and choruses that will be rippling through festival crowds, but adding layers and some new drum beats that give the sound a big leap forward. The standout track on the album is the lead single ‘Right Now’, a floaty pop track that shows Gaynor at his strongest — slickly gliding in and out of hazy beats and rasping one of his most catchy hooks. It’s an album-making bridge that all but guarantees the track will feature somewhere in Triple J’s Hottest 100. The song manages to balance Gaynor’s harmless swagger with lines such the opening ‘Mirror, mirror, tell me who the nicest/I know the answer, I just need a few reminders’ with the self-conscious reflections that hit home. (‘Do you even like the bands that you listen to? Do you even like the friends that’ll chill with you whenever everything is cool but when you fall they disappear from view?’) The theme of youthful cynicism reverberates in fellow highlight ‘You Always Know the DJ’, Allday’s open letter to a female friend who ‘always knows the DJ’, and captures the essence of what Allday has come to represent. While some rappers celebrate the present and others mourn their past, Allday writes odes to a fun, fast life while simultaneously dropping in self-aware lines soaked in melancholy about himself and those around him. He manages to toast to the high life while chastising it for ruining us all. It’s a story that characterised his breakout hit ‘Claude Monet’ and a constant on the singles ‘Right Now’ and ‘You Always Know the DJ’. Where the album stutters is when Allday veers out of the lanes that have thus far carved his niche. ‘Anything But Sober’, while hiding some great lines (‘My friend told me he didn’t like my songs/blame it on the drugs, let me right my wrongs’) is littered with a slurred, messy beat that sounds like a rudimentary Rattata and some unconvincing bravado. Allday fares a little better with the boasting on ‘Hometown Pride’, an ode to cheeky teenager misadventures, but the content was just covered on his breakout hit ‘Claude Monet’ and the track comes off as a bland Australian translation of the college rap brand perpetuated by American artists Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen and Huey Mack. Allday, like many Melbourne rappers, is at his best when making unabashed pop music. Just like his label boss Illy, Allday shines when he sings and occasionally rhymes, as opposed to trying to produce straight hip-hop to compete with the Hilltop Hoods and Funkoars. Instead, the album is most enjoyable at moments like ‘God Starve the Queen’ where Allday’s wavy voice is Chet Faker-esque over a synth that wouldn’t be amiss on any Future Classic EP. In an album that shows flashes of brilliance, Allday can be forgiven for stumbling in his infancy. With a good team behind, a charisma made for interviews and live shows chock-full of devotees, Startup Cult will undoubtedly be a solid launching pad for a long career. The room for improvement is there, and Australian music fans should be excited to see Allday continue to stride towards perfecting his unique, accessible sound. – See more at: http://theunderage.com.au/2014/07/30/alldays-startup-cult-has-followers-flocking/#sthash.lhdBR5Sh.dpuf

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