John The Ghost – I Only Want To Live Once (Album Review)

In case you are unfamiliar with the name alone, John O’Callaghan is the frontman of the Alternative Rock sensations The Maine. Busy with The Maine over the years touring and releasing music, now with world brought to a sudden halt, O’Callaghan has taken the time to work on his solo project, John The Ghost. Something begun back in 2016, O’Callaghan dove right into the world of his independent songs with 2016 EP, Sincerely, John The Ghost. A pleasant surprise for fans, John The Ghost has come back swinging with the debut full-length album I Only Want To Live Once.

Released on Friday, February 12, 2021 via The Maine’s counterpart label, 8123, a name rooting from a parking lot John and his friends would hang out in, I Only Want Live Once is a departure for O’Callaghan, putting him in a different atmosphere, without fully leaving the ground.

This in mind, the album takes off with “Live Once” and the departure from The Maine is suddenly realized with a poppy synth beat/hook, feeling influenced by Hip Hop and the likes of Timbaland or Justin Timberlake. An interesting shift in styles for O’Callaghan, lyrical, the main theme of the track appears to be about living in the present and making the most of life; something very relative at this time.

The following track, “Y,” has a heavy bass Funk groove which immediately grabs your attention. Featuring an overall dark and mysterious timbre, creating air of the macabre, O’Callaghan’s smoky, rugged voice complements the tone well. This is while “No Life at All” almost adheres to a Disco beat with gritty foggy synth and guitar work. Furthermore, the instrumentation plays nicely with the lyrical theme of synthetics and lack of authenticity in the world.

Shifting the album once more, the single “Drive” creates a sultry atmosphere of running away from, in O’Callaghan’s words, ‘the doomsday clouds.’ Then echoing vocals take a large part in “The Patterns,” all while discussing the habit of falling in love within madness in the current living situation. Trailing off with a subtle key fade, it creates a nice easy break and calm to the storm. This is as “Rolled Down Windows” takes a more Alternative Pop turn that presents a figurative image of living life in the fast lane and a sense of feeling carefree. From the California Pop style guitar strums, to the high-pitched screech synth, instrumentally, the song plays well with O’Callaghan’s overall style; from the tattoos on his chest to the tousled blonde hair.

Moving along, the carefree vibe comes to a slow stop with “Soso” which harks back instrumentally to the like of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Featuring warm, atmospheric guitar picking, the driving bass gives the song a full feeling while colorful keys give the song a vibrant hue. Which leads us to “Here-Gone,” which can only be described as a synth Hip Hop dream. A head bopper with faint echoes of The 1975, it features De’Wayne creating a rap interlude that rounds the song and wraps it up in a beautiful little bow. And finally everything comes to a close with the album’s longest track, “8.” Coming at you with a “Transatlanticism” like synth sound, is seemingly paying tribute to one of O’Callaghan’s favorite all-time tracks by Death Cab for Cutie.

Overall, John The Ghost proves Mr. John O’Callaghan has found his own musical path, and it does not travel too far from The Maine. His musically direction takes a more Pop, synth direction, but it fits just right. I Want To Only Live Once shows that there is truly a solo star on the rise, and hopefully, The Maine fans will be there every step in the progression. Well worth checking out, Cryptic Rock gives I Only Want To Live Once 4 out of 5 stars.

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Michele JohnsonAuthor posts

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  • Love your descriptions of the songs, they truly highlight the versatility yet cohesiveness of this strong debut album. Great review!

  • I really love this album and it shows how well rounded of a musician he is. It’s a great debut album that leaves me wondering which direction the future will take him with JTG and The Maine.

  • I am always so amazed by the originality of John’s lyricism. This record really impressed me and I can’t wait to hear more from John The Ghost!

  • Love this album and the analyses of all the lyrics! He’s great with words and it always leaves me in awe. I love this album more with every listen!

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