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Personal album allows Ryan Allen to tap into his 'Soul'

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Ryan Allen has entered his Dad Rock period.

On his second solo album as Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, the frontman for post-punk outfit Thunderbirds are Now! and loud, guitar-heavy rockers Destroy This Place offers up a mellow set of personal, close-to-the-heart songs about being a father, a husband and a taxpayer.

"I wanted it to be something you could put on while you're in the backyard at a barbecue, while you're having a beer and grilling," says Allen of his new album "Heart String Soul," which he'll celebrate the release of Saturday at the Berkley Front. "I don't want to pretend like I'm 20. I wanted to make a record that was very much a snapshot of how I feel."

Allen, 35, made the album in the studio at his parents' house in Livonia. His father recorded the album and plays on it, along with his brother and several close friends. His show at the Berkley Front is within walking distance of the home he shares with his wife and 3-year-old son.

"The whole thing with his record was about keeping things close to your vest," says Allen. "There's something about that that I'm very into."

Allen, whose first solo album was released in 2011, embraced simplicity in the making of "Heart String Soul." The songs are candid and forthright; "Angela '97" is a song about meeting his wife, Angela, in 1997. "Once you allow yourself to be honest, once you are okay with letting yourself do that, the other songs keep coming," he says. "Once the floodgates were open, I was like, 'OK, this is the direction.'"

Allen worked on the album between July and November of last year, and the leisurely pace allowed him to "drop in on it like an old friend." The opening song, "Should Be Me," admits to a feeling of jealousy not hearing his songs on the radio, and closer "Bonded by Blood" is a conversation between Allen and his son. "There isn't a song on it that doesn't mean something to me," he says.

Allen still has Destroy This Place as an outlet to tap into his youthful, more experimental side — the band will head off to Easthampton, Mass. for four days next month to record its next album — but "Heart String Soul" was about embracing his personal life.

With his Destroy This Place bandmates, "I wouldn't feel comfortable being like, 'Hey guys, here's this song about my kid that's very straightforward, play it,'" he says.

"I feel like if something's that close to you and you get the opportunity to do something on your own, you might as well do it."

Ryan Allen &

His Extra Arms

with Love Axe and Javelins

9 p.m. Saturday

Berkley Front, 3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley

Tickets $10

(248) 547-3331