REVIEW: Mike Johnson: What Would You Do
Mike Johnson: What Would You Do [Up Records, 2002] (mp3)
Three words? Zzzz zzzz zzz...
What Would You Do is a profoundly boring album. Mike sounds bored. His lyrics sound bored. The guitarists, bassists, drummers sound bored. The slide guitar player sounds bored. The droopy instrumental called "Requiem" did just that - it put me asleep. Not really asleep - it simply made me want to be asleep. To be oblivious to its going on and on. And on.
Perhaps the problem is with me. Leonard Cohen puts me to sleep, too. And Johnson sounds a lot like Cohen - he has a low, semi-monotone voice, like a big-eyed elephant. Perhaps his lyrics are as good as Cohen's, too. The ones I heard weren't, but I missed a lot. Johnson seems to be one of those musicians who misinterprets mumbling for melancholia. You can tell he's unhappy, see, because he hardly opens his mouth, because his voice hardly changes. Even when the music is a swinging, midtempo country ballad, Johnson chews on the marbles in his mouth and talks like he's shot full of codeine.
The music of What Would You Do lingers around in each track, playing sleepily, and one imagines the musicians looking around, wondering if there's anywhere better they could be. I suppose it's meant to be slow and brooding, but what it's brooding about, I'm not really sure. Maybe the fact that Johnson alludes to in "Names" -- that "time's not at all pleasant" -- has really got everybody down. Whereas What Would You Do longs to capture the southern gothic vibe of Black Heart Procession, instead it's fifty-seven minutes of groaning, with various colours of wallpaper background. A well-plucked acoustic guitar dashes about on "Remember", some genuine rock'n'roll on "Come Back Again", feedback drone on "Things...", synth surges on "Hidden Away"... Johnson's always there, however -- it's his album, after all, -- urging us to "take a look at [our] friends and tell them how weird this feeling is". The feeling? Exhaustion.