Armed with an acoustic guitar and an army of devoted fans, Dylan John Thomas has taken the music scene by storm – due to his hard graft, selling out of venues like there’s no tomorrow (even three nights at Glasgow’s prestigious ‘Barrowlands’.)

Life hasn’t always been kind to him being in and out of care from a young age, music became his lifeline with him even stating, “there was a cathartic element to be able to craft away and play tunes and have that escapism and be able to put all my focus on it.” With the music giving Dylan an outlet to make sense of his thoughts and feelings creating a safe space in a “chaotic and uneasy environment.” Taking to the streets of Glasgow busking, sculpting his craft as well as putting covers on YouTube such as “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, “Someday” by The Strokes as well as “All my Loving” by the Beatles (who Dylan himself cites as influences (doing them all justice.)) This helped catapult him onto the radar of the likes of Liam Gallagher and Ocean Colour Scene who Dylan supported on tour, as well as being taken under the wing of fellow Glaswegian Gerry Cinnamon who he also supported on tour at just 17 years of age. Dylan’s quality and ability to put on a raucous live show (with help from his fans) was quickly recognised leading him to playing Reading/Leeds and Glastonbury as well as playing main stage at TRSNMT before the release of his debut album which has finally arrived.

An album needs an opener to captivate the audience and have them gagging for more and what a way to kick it off with ‘Fever’. A story of a modern-day relationship showing that even if your partner does your nut in you still love her and won’t let her go. With lyrics like ‘if time is a healer, find me the dealer’ shows British (Up the Scots) tongue in cheek sense of humour which Alex Turner and Jarvis Cocker’s songwriting also embody. This is also seen in ‘When I Get Home’ were Dylan sings “Baby, when I get home, we can get it on. I don’t mind losing the race.” Which every woman would applaud him for, and men look on in shock and bitterness. Similar subject to ‘Married with Children’ by Oasis however unlike the Oasis acoustic riff, Dylan makes it bounce perfectly for a singalong with the crowd as well as giving them something to jump to (which is a consistent theme throughout). The acoustic riff being the backbone of the whole song before crashing full force into the drums like Hamilton’s at the wheel; yet blending nicely not being overcomplicated for the sake of it. The fact it was released as a single shows Thomas holds it in high regard.

Both ‘Rich boy’ and ‘Up in the air’ wouldn’t look too out of place on a Madness album especially the latter with a horn arrangement that sounds straight out of Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ and something you can see The Specials dancing to, before his ever so trusty acoustic guitar puts his own Thomas twist on it. Dylan shows how capable he is as a storyteller with the likes of ‘Rich Boy’ and ‘Champs-Elysees’ looking like it belongs on ‘Blonde on Blonde’. ‘Rich Boy’ being a ska infused rags to riches story, and ‘Champs-Elysees’ could be a hidden track on ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ but is so strong Leonard Cohen could have written it.

There’s a fine line between love and heartbreak and Dylan John Thomas perfectly bridges the gap between them. Like Lennon and McCartney, he knows the secret formula for how to create a perfect homage to another. From the piano ballad and personal highlight of ‘what I need’, which Billy Joel wish he would have written, before the electric guitar splits it perfectly, making the desire feel real and fresh at every turn, which is contradicted lyrically by ‘melancholy’s cure’, which makes heartbreak and the breakdown of a relationship feel like the right decision as the jangly riff comforts us. ‘Lovely day’ brings the mood up and brings a childlike innocence to lyrics which is lost with age as well as feeling reminiscent of a first love.

Dylan’s ability to create gut wrenching lyrics that are so personal to him, but still relate to the audience who can interpret them in multiple ways, as well as giving the audience a chance to dance along and sing them back, even if the lyrics don’t reflect it. In ‘Feel the Fire’, it’s indicated that the narrator is battling drug addiction stating, “Blame my recreation for the thoughts inside my head.” as well as “lost in hell, on a sunny day.” This is a social realist song talking about a subject that otherwise isn’t widely talked about and considered taboo, yet the meaning behind the song is contradicted by the jangly guitar riff which Johnny Marr would be proud of. This would be the reason “people are banging about to it.” Even if it is “Some of the darkest things I’ve (DJT) ever felt.”  It’s becoming more and more common to have a live recorded song to end an album and there could be no better way to end this album than with ‘Wake Up Ma’ recorded at the Barrowlands. This version is spine tingling, hearing the emotion in DJTs voice as well as the crowd singing it back to him, a song talking about his time in foster care and his turbulent relationship with his parents. What a way to end an album!

A debut album that embodies feel good music, sweaty crowds, and mad live shows as well as stomach dropping lyricism, which can paint a vivid picture that burns in the memory.  Minimal at times with just the basics needed but sometimes weaving between explosive and expansive. This is one not to be missed.

Dylan John Thomas: Dylan John Thomas – Out 2nd February 2024 (Ignition Records)

John Thomas – What I Need (Official Video) (