Tuesday 22 May 2012

John Mayer - Born and Raised

With a title like 'Born and Raised', you may think John Mayer is "going back to his roots" with his latest album. But truth be told, he's never strayed too far from his country-blues sound.

Yet Mayer has certainly gone back to basics with this album.  Gone is the upbeat soft-rock of his debut 'Room for Squares'; the intricate funky riffs of Neon; the slow bluesy feel of 'Continuum's' I Don't Trust Myself or Vultures; or quirky gems like Assassin from his previous album 'Battle Studies'.  Instead, Mayer has opted for a collection of twelve mellow, largely acoustic songs.

This transfers emphasis from his guitar playing to his songwriting.  As his live albums can attest to, his guitar skills are impressive and a key draw to his music, the lyrical content generally playing second fiddle.  However, here he's mostly reduced to dull strumming patterns on slow ballads, leading to an album that lacks excitement and serves only to highlight his inferior songwriting.  Speak For Me hints at the finger-picking style of previous material like Stop This Train, contrasting with the title track's straightforward country serenade.  At least his voice is as husky and sultry as ever.

The title most likely hints towards a sense of maturity and refinement, but lines like "love ain't a thing, love is a verb" hardly offer depth of meaning.  Over his career, his carefree, frivolous love songs like Your Body Is A Wonderland have taken on darker colours, most notably on 'Continuum' and the downbeat 'Battle Studies'.  Yet there's something endearing in the innocence of his early work, which here has spiralled into a far more pessimistic outlook.  The title track sees Mayer looking back to younger, simpler days and even mentions his parents divorce in the line "I got a mom, I got a dad, but they do not have each other".  If only the young Mayer's enthusiasm could have injected some vitality to the proceedings.  Instead, he drowns his sorrows in Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey, whilst the final third of the depressingly titled If I Ever Get Around to Living repeats the line "I think you'd better wise up boy".  It's a sentiment you wish Mayer would take to heart and stop wallowing in self-pity.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Speak For Me
* Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey

Listen: 'Born and Raised' is available now.

Watch: Mayer has sadly taken an indefinite break from live performing due to a throat injury.