You may recall that I recently watched a documentary about Mayer on the Tubes Of You, said I was gonna get into his albums. I have two here (this one, and Heavier Things), so I thought I’d take a listen.
I bopped along absent-mindedly to most of it. Of course I knew the hits (Your Body Is A Wonderland, Why Georgia) because our piped-in work music plays them relentlessly. Well the deep cuts fit the same form, so it’s a cohesive record. There’s no doubting that the man can play guitar, as any live footage I’ve seen will attest, but this record doesn’t really show off those skills in a wankery way… it’s a band effort overall and that’s cool too.
As for his lyrics, I can’t tell if the man is telling it like it is (as he seemed to in the documentary) or if he’s got his head so far up his own ass and this is all just masturbatory. I cut him a break given that this is his first album, early days, so maybe his song-writing will get stronger as he goes along. The music was good, great in spots, even, though it does seem to be playing it fairly safe in a jazzy pop rock way. Future dentist office waiting room music, you know? But I thought the lyrics might’ve been a wee bit too much minutiae not enough meat. Says I, who probably could not do better, but still.
Of course, I found lots of love for Mayer online, but I also found detractors. Such is the way, I suppose, with artists who’ve exploded into fame as he has. You can imagine what the fans say, but one bit I found I reproduce here just for shits and giggles:
“Singer-songwriter John Mayer fills his debut, Room for Squares, with pep talks to and advertisements for himself. Even when questioning his young life, Mayer’s doubts come off glib; not one second of “Why Georgia” convinces that “the stirring in my soul” keeps the artiste awake at night. Between his Dave Matthews-wannabe vocals and the accomplished but bland lite rock of his band, he could be just as easily offering tunes for hire to a coming-of-age network series as making a stand for himself and his worldview. The premise of “City Love”–that Mayer couldn’t find his way around Manhattan until finding a girlfriend to root him to the place–is nice but not edifying. “My Stupid Mouth” is similarly fuzzy; letting us in on just what he said to alienate a dinner partner would’ve gone a long way toward fleshing out the song’s pat self-deprecation. Ultimately, Mayer comes off less like a commiserating friend than a blabbermouth who’s forever forgetting there’s someone else in the room. And instead of whining about a discarded lunch box (“83”), dude, learn to brown-bag it the way the rest of us did. –Rickey Wright”
Haha. So, in sum? It’s a decent record. I played it with the good headphones on, and it was alright. Not sure how much I’ll play it, going forward, but hey. And I’m gonna try the second record too, see if there’s growth.
PS: I also learned that this album was named in reference to Hank Mobley’s 1963 Blue Note album No Room For Squares. I don’t quite make the connection between the two, but there ya go.
Watching guitar-geek videos online, I found these guys in England who are huge John Mayer fans. Their enthusiasm actually made me wonder about my in-passing impression of him as a discount, safe-pop Dave Matthews.
I found a 2014 documentary (below) on the tubes of you, thought I’d see what the fuss was about. I gave myself ten minutes just to check it out… and ended up staying for the duration.
There seems to be something genuine in him, something clear-eyed and fearless enough to follow his heart towards what he wants to do, even if it means he breaks away from what worked before. It’s a constant mission to use music to define and express who he is at the time. Creating an autobiography in albums, perhaps.
He went through early (huge) fame, a very public blow-up and retreat, two years of throat surgeries and recoveries, endless collaborations and playing with his heroes and he’s still standing, still making records, still refining and searching.
As he says, “change isn’t a dirty word.” I appreciate the clarity. And there’s no question that the man can play guitar. Think I’ll try an album, see what’s up.