Former pro-surfer Jack Johnson introduced his brand of early-‘70s-style folk-pop with last year’s Brushfire Fairytales, a record that has gone platinum thanks to word-of-mouth alone. His sophomore effort, On and On, mixes more of the same (think Donovan, but blander) with a reggae buzz that evokes Paul Simon’s solo work. Johnson’s pliable tenor and world-weary songwriting style also recall contemporaries like Dave Matthews and Ben Harper. Trouble is, Johnson is much less ambitious and the solo monotony of On and On just might prove why Matthews has his self-titled Band and Harper has the Innocent Criminals. Johnson’s guitar work is crafty (“Taylor”) and his songs are succinct (he makes his point and goes on his way), but his sentiments are often too easy (he sings “What will be will be and so it goes” on the opening track, “Times Like These”). His balm might temporarily heal your aches and pains but it may just be easier to move out to the islands and join him in his isolated (and idealized) Hawaiian heaven. However, if “Fall Line,” a meditation on the evils of television, is insufferably naïve, “Cookie Jar” is anything but oblivious: “‘You can’t blame me,’ says the media man…‘It’s a two way mirror.’” Even more revealing is the cynical final track, “Symbol in My Driveway,” which provides evidence for what we suspected all along: Johnson is nowhere near as hopeful as he’d like us to believe.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: