CD Review: Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through The Static

By Jessica Grabert 2008-02-24 23:14:11
*Note: This CD review was created with 100% solar energy*

Be kind; be happy; be in love. Treat others how you expect to be treated. Save the environment. Love animals. Wear hemp. Fall asleep on a beach with your toes in the sand. Be mellow; be cool. Listen to Jack Johnson.

The man isn’t kidding when he claims his music is chock full of “mellow beats.” Jack Johnson’s new album, Sleep Through The Static, seems to feature more acoustic tracks than the average MTV Unplugged endeavor. The first track “All At Once” begins in this unplugged fashion, a song that would be a calm treat before the storm on almost any other album (think “Round Here” the first track on the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After). Instead of simple and poignant, however, “All At Once” is a barren landscape of unappealing vocals and bad songwriting. Partially through, Johnson laments, “Sometimes it feels like a heart is no place to be singing from at all.” Well, son, if this album is the best your heart can do, than you probably should reconsider making music.

By the end of the title track “Sleep Through The Static,” the album has set a tone based in calm finality. The songs are vocally lulling and, even with the introduction of *gasp* drums in the second song, listening to the album still makes me feel as if I am in a lucid nightmare. In my head, there’s a plethora of sun-kissed boys mellowing out with their various instruments, surrounded by a gaggle of giggling females who might as well be introducing themselves, “Live your life at AE…I’m Brittney…I’m Jessica…I’m Andrea.” We’re all sitting around on this ludicrous beach with a rocky candy shore. There are cotton candy clouds and little chocolate bunnies. I desperately want to take a machete and hack everything to bits.

There are a dozen other songs on this album, all reaching this bizarre, stoned level of functionality. Everything for Johnson is a bit hazy, including his precise level of musical talent, his monotonous vocals, and his outrageously heart wrenching lyrics—a device that could possibly work if the lyrics weren’t such blatantly overused sentiments accompanied by Johnson’s inability to externalize any sort of emotion into his performance. The negatively titled track “Enemy” actually shows attempts at anger, conviction, and accusatory language with lyrics about some bitch lying. The problem with the track, then, is its nice, yes nice, way of telling said girl how he is feeling. “Please stop la la la la…lying” Johnson croons. Please? La-la- lying? If Johnson is so upset by some dumbass girl’s lies, why can’t he act fucking excited or unnerved or depressed? Anything but the matter-of-fact monotonous tactics he is employing…

Ironically, during “Same Girl,” Johnson questions, “How can you be so calm/ When the truth is that sometimes/ We live in the eye of the storm.” What, the man is frustrated that some girl is not becoming more upset and not acting in a passionate manner? What a cunt. So, how does he respond? By quietly asking how she can be so calm. She? They’re probably absurdly made for one another.

The rest of the album is spotted with acoustic odes to “that girl.” You know, the “Angel” who needs a man for comfort. The girl who tickles, initiates backrubs, and giggles like a schoolgirl even though there are wrinkles beginning to show under her eyes. She’s the girl who gave every boy a valentine in fourth grade. She’s also the girl who wins boys with a smile that will haunt when she leaves them. Even when Johnson isn’t singing for said girl, even when he throws in a bit of piano or a drumbeat noteworthy enough to allow me to contemplate tapping a foot, the album can’t reach past its plateau of mellowness. Because of this, the disc fails to inspire the sort of truly emotional response that it should. I am left, desolate on my goddamn rock candy shore with nothing to show but a review that only the most sardonic will appreciate.

If you are a fan of Jack Johnson; if you buy into his mellow bullshit, then go ahead and buy the boldly hypocritical Sleep Through The Static. Just remember: Jack Johnson makes music for people who don’t really give a shit about music. Jack Johnson is the artist these people go to whenever they want to chill out and think about nothing, a concept that should not, by definition, be fathomable. Listening to music and processing should be doing something in itself. So, go ahead you listless masses, buy the fucking album. Just make sure you are mentally prepared to admit that you suck.
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