Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Jack Johnson - Sleep Through the Static

Jack Johnson approached his fourth studio album in seven years differently than in years and albums past. He was carrying a melancholy heart after personal travails and the loss of a close cousin (Danny Riley); to whom the album Sleep Through the Static is dedicated. The album had also been talked about for it's change in tone and mood musically speaking. The title is meant to give a warning that long gone are the days off pleasantly strummed acoustic folky-bluesy-pop songs and in their place are rough around the edges electric guitar solos and crunchier melodies. That is at least what was advertised. Unfortunately, those dreams of a different side to Jack Johnson are still hidden in his buddy Ben Harper's closet.

Sleep Through the Static wants you to believe Jack Johnson is all of a sudden going to let loose with nasty guitar chops, or at least some electric solo lines. If you guessed this would actually happen you'd be terribly wrong. It's the same laid back Jack Johnson, strummin' on his acoustic, sweet melodies and everything in a nice slow shuffle. The only difference to be had is if you read the lyrics off a piece of paper or listened very, very closely. The actual music is very much in keeping with everything that has come previously from Jack Johnson. This isn't surprising but it is slightly disappointing. The only "static" comes from him strumming the electric guitar instead of his trusty acoustic (n.b. it took multiple Google searches to even find a picture of him holding an electric guitar. It's a press photo from the shoot for the record cover. Could he look more uncomfortable holding it?). That's about it. While I liked him when I first heard his music back in 2001 and thought it was progressing, he now seems to be stagnant. He's happy writing his Hawaiian influenced pop tunes and not really venturing beyond that. As an artist, it's hard to keep challenging yourself when something has become your brand or your bread & butter. It's not that this album is bad or awful it's just mediocre and somewhat forgettable. The tunes are nice background music for hanging out at a pool in the summer, but other than that these tunes aren't going to reach that far. His early work was refreshing and somewhat new, now his music is predictable and semi-forgettable.

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