Gary Allan: Get Off on the Pain

This is contender for year’s end best of country list, insightful and rare look into a singer’s psyche, and a collection of top-grade country music or soulful purging.

Gary Allan

Get Off on the Pain

Label: MCA Nashville
US Release Date: 2010-03-09
UK Release Date: 2010-03-09

As if the titles of his albums didn’t make it clear, life with Gary Allan is never an easy ride. At various times throughout his both lucrative and artistically rich career, Allan’s sheer lack of optimism has lingered on the verge of nihilism. Not that it’s not warranted, especially considering Allan’s compelling and devastating personal marital narrative and the consequential emotional turmoil the Californian faced in the wake of his wife’s suicide. What makes Allan such a wonderful Country singer is he has found a way to channel (not dilute) his authentic life experience into sincere, often painstaking, music that rings with sincerity. His latest album, Get Off on the Pain, continues in that direction.

Surprisingly, the album kicks off with a rowdy, banjo-burner that finds Allan embracing his pain that rings with real masochism and sets a tone for the rest of the collection. In the song, Allan takes his own image and acknowledges the pain has become a significant component into factoring his identity and perhaps, he doesn’t want to let pain go, for letting go of that hurt could mean a piece of himself dying in the process. It’s a deep look into a tortured soul and the title track alone could inspire a psychoanalytical thesis, especially when Allan is able to build up to the hook, “God knows there’s no else to blame / Sometimes I think I get off of the pain”.

But Allan follows up his confession of “There’s a side of me that just won’t stop” with the defeatist attitude of “I Think I’ve Had Enough” before succumbing to his masochism again by attending the woman of his dream’s wedding in the soaring “Today”. There’s not a hint of hope in the way Allan admits, “Today, today it really hit me / That she don’t really miss me” and when his rough-around-the-edges voice slowly enunciates the two syllables of “today” it’s the aural effect of an execution. In “Kiss Me When I’m Down”, Allan begs for a former flame to return, if only for a night. He realizes the chance of a relationship is extinct but just a memory will do, only if that memory turns into a pain. Allan’s desire to be hurt drives the man to obsession, going as far as keeping his lover’s Zeppelin case just to have a reason to call her up.

Like his previous two albums, Allan makes sure to take the time to experiment with some new sonic textures as he makes his pilgrimage across his painful landscape. He pulls off a fully convincing cow-punk snarl on “That Ain’t Gonna Fly” (it would be magnificent to see Allan to grab something from the Old 97’s catalogue for the next album), turns in a soulful and seductive slow-burner on “We Fly By Night”, takes a successful swing at gospel with a marvelous falsetto vocal turn on “When You Give Yourself Away” and lights “Long Summer Days” (a deluxe addition exclusive) into a storm of fiery emotions with a genuine, astonishing funk. That Allan can so easily adapt to these various sonic templates reconfirms his status as Nashville’s most talented male vocalist as well as proving his ambition and range of scope for his artistic vision.

Despite the various gems on the album, the thesis of the piece is found on “Along the Way”, where Allan pleads guilty to his sins, “Scarecrows and devils are the only things out this late / What that says about me, yeah, it’s probably true”. Get Off on the Pain relinquishes as many answers as it elicits questions, never once does Allan apologize or even ask for sympathy, instead the singer cathartically spills his narrative across the span of ten tracks and leaves the listener to take what they will.

It’s hard to think the man who once sang the novel hit “Man to Man” would turn into the artist that is Allan today and yet Gary Allan has released a string of albums that delve into his personal masochism, pain and identity with the latest release being the zenith. There’s several superlatives that could embellish Get Off on the Pain: contender for year’s end best of list, insightful and rare look into a singer’s psyche, a collection of top-grade Country music or soulful purging. All of them apply, and then some.




Featured: Top of Home Page

Creative Disruption in 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Portrait of a Lady on Fire yearns to burn tyrannical gendered tradition to ash and remake it into something collaborative and egalitarian.


Fave Five: The Naked and Famous

Following two members leaving the group in 2018, synthpop mavens the Naked and Famous are down to a trio for the first time ever and discuss the records they turned to help make their aptly-named fourth record, Recover.

Evan Sawdey

Fleetwood Dissects the European Mindset in His Moody, Disturbing Thriller, 'A Young Fair God'

Hugh Fleetwood's difficult though absorbing A Young Fair God offers readers a look into the age-old world views that have established and perpetuated cultural rank and the social attitudes that continue to divide us wherever we may reside in the world.


Art Feynman Creates Refreshing Worldbeat Pop on 'Half Price at 3:30'

On Half Price at 3:30, Art Feynman again proves himself adept at building colorful worlds from unexpected and well-placed aural flourishes.


The Beths Are Sharp As Ever on 'Jump Rope Gazers'

New Zealand power-poppers the Beths return with a sophomore album that makes even the most senior indie-rock acts feel rudimentary by comparison.


The Jayhawks Offer Us Some 'XOXO'

The Jayhawks offer 12-plus songs on XOXO to help listeners who may be alone and scared by reminding us that we are all alone together.


Steve McDonald Remembers the Earliest Days of Redd Kross

Steve McDonald talks about the year that produced the first Redd Kross EP, an early eighth-grade graduation show with a then-unknown Black Flag, and a punk scene that welcomed and defined him.


Nazis, Nostalgia, and Critique in Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit'

Arriving amidst the exhaustion of the past (21st century cultural stagnation), Waititi locates a new potential object for the nostalgic gaze with Jojo Rabbit: unpleasant and traumatic events themselves.


Why I Did Not Watch 'Hamilton' on Disney+

Just as Disney's Frozen appeared to deliver a message of 21st century girl power, Hamilton hypnotizes audiences with its rhyming hymn to American exceptionalism.


LA Popsters Paper Jackets Deliver a Message We Should Embrace (premiere + interview)

Two days before releasing their second album, LA-based pop-rock sextet Paper Jackets present a seemingly prescient music video that finds a way to ease your pain during these hard times.


'Dancing After TEN' Graphic Memoir Will Move You

Art dances with loss in the moving double-memoir by comics artists Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber, Dancing After TEN.


Punk Rock's WiiRMZ Rage at the Dying of the Light on 'Faster Cheaper'

The eight songs on WiiRMZ's Faster Cheaper are like a good sock to the jaw, bone-rattling, and disorienting in their potency.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.