Wednesday, December 2, 2009

John Mayer's "Battle Studies": Where The Hell Is John Mayer?

Rating: 2.5/5

Guys, I think John Mayer's holding back on us.

After coming across like a tepid, bland Dave Matthews wannabe on his first two albums, John Mayer’s “Continuum” seemed to come out of nowhere. Boasting a molasses-thick blues sound and simple, elegant songwriting, Continuum was definitely one of the best albums of 2006, and it’s probably among the finest pop albums released this decade. Lyrically, the album saw Mayer reach much deeper than on previous efforts, allowing the listener into his world to find parallels with their own hopes and fears. The songs were memorable, warm, and relatable.

And all of this makes Mayer’s new album “Battle Studies” all the more disappointing. To an extent, most of these songs are actually pretty good. The slightly hard-edged “Assassin” comes equipped with a hard rocking chorus, and his cover of the blues classic “Crossroads” sees Mayer almost, sorta, kinda make good on his promise as a potential heir to the bluesy white guy, singer-songwriter throne. But often Mayer seems to be settling into an airy, U2-inspired sound that just doesn’t hold up, with songs like “Heartbreak Warfare” and “War of My Life” sounding like Joshua Tree b-sides.

“All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” is a total snooze-fest meanwhile, and the Taylor Swift-assisted “Half of My Heart,” though possessing a fairly solid lyrical motif, lacks any edge whatsoever. But don’t get it twisted; there a moments on Battle Studies that work fantastically. The slow burning “Edge of Desire” is a perfect example of the beauty in subtle, nuanced songwriting, and first single “Who Says,” is definitely among Mayer’s best compositions. Why, you ask? Well, for starters it conveys the guy’s sense of humor. Ending with the knock out line, “It’s been a long night in New York City/It’s been a long time since 20 too/I don’t remember you looking any better/But then again I don’t remember you,” this is Mayer at his most intriguing and convincing.

For most of Battle Studies however, Mayer seems to be playing it safe. The guy is just being too nice; too conservative when it comes to injecting some of that charming, charismatic personality we’ve all been forced to contend with since his ridiculously unlikely descent into tabloid fixturedom. These songs always sound good, but there’s much left to be desired in terms of establishing a connection with what you’re hearing.

C'mon's about opening up a little bit next time?

No comments: