Release date: 1 March 2005
Label: Brushfire Records
Genres: Acoustic music, Folk music, Folk rock
In Between Dreams (2005), right off the bat is not for the lyrical connoisseur. There are more criticism for this album than praise, for being unadventurous and safe. But the magic of Jack Johnson lies not in his expertise. He is what one could call the more visceral artist. The album does not partake in sweeping gestures of lyrical or instrumental brouhaha. In Between Dreams, is nostalgic if not anything else. That is what makes him one of those musicians whose core audience are largely focussed on the relaxation that he brings with each of his albums. In this genre-bending third album, one can find his signature surfer rock tunes along with scattered influences of folk and even some bossa nova. Which is both refreshing and engaging all at once. The album opens with Better Together, an un-ironic love song where he claims that life is much better with love. With love as the answer for all of life’s problems. In Never Know, Jack ponders about the metaphysical. The transient nature of life and the passage of which takes you by surprise. What follows could be arguably one of the most popular songs of that year, Banana Pancakes. This song unbeknownst to many has subtle and almost forgettable inferences to the passions of sex and a rather sultry metaphor to making love. The use with which Jack Johnson professes his attention for the passionate side of love is what makes him one of the eclectic singer-songwriters working presently. In Good People, Jack sets his sight on the depletion of the human psyche. In his characteristic laid back lyricism he takes on the hard boiled topic of the banality that is reality television and pop culture. The news cycle that perpetually evades the real issues and the short-lived attention span of the generation that seeks sex and other vices more than anything else. A poignant message juxtaposed by a rather peppy musicality which almost instantly makes the listener forget to tune in to his message. No Other Way has a variety of intricacies, in that it is too open ended for interpretation. Though one part argues that the song is about the cycle of birth and death and the inevitability of mortality. Another group talks about infidelity being the theme of this song. The song talks about how he wishes to maintain the loving relationship but the temptations are hard to resist. One of the impactful lines of the song that touches many a people: “Resolve is just a concept that’s just dead as the leaves”. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing can be one of those songs that would typical of any love song. A lover unrequited who is down on his luck waiting for his lover to love him back. This song can be considered lazy writing, especially after a song like No Other Way. The same is the case with Staple It Together, though the funky and groovy tunes make this an interesting song. It is too mediocre in creativity.
After a stretch of almost forgetful songs Jack Johnson hits back with Crying Shame. The shameless manner in which the world wages war and using peace as an excuse is almost abhorrent. The brutal reality of war where the powerful men do not seem to care of the bodies that fall and the father, mothers, sons and daughters who never back it back to their families. A heart wrenching song like If I Could, is one of those pieces that gives that feeling of lump in your throat. In this short but powerful piece one finds the masterful sweeps of the lyrical genius of Jack Johnson. He manages to create a world of sympathy and angst against the world as a father sings of the injustice that has befallen his newborn baby. When time has given two weeks for the baby to live, he implies that losing life makes it easier to understand. A poignant statement on the brevity and unjust world we live in. The song Breakdown talks about the pitfalls of the concrete jungle of the modern age. The fact that no one has the time to take in the beauty and the magic that nature offers is depicted explicitly. The song follows the singer taking a train to some place, on the way he is so tired by his routine that he wishes the train breaks down. He wishes to take a walk down the winding and scenic road as wisdom’s in trees the trees not in glass windows. The fact that this album is littered with forgettable pieces like the next one Belle is rather bothersome. Though Jack Johnson manages to bring about some masterful lyrical genius into most songs, he manages to curtail these in songs such as this and Situations. But one thing that is noticeable is the fact that these songs are musically likeable. For a large extent he manages to distract us from the lazy writing he’s indulged in every once in awhile. The last song on this album, Constellations, is beautiful to say the least. In that it is minimalist in nature, tricked with simple chord progressions and snares this is the song that you’d love to jam in the confines of your haunt.
At the end of this short 44 minute album there is more to love than to hate. The music of Jack Johnson doesn’t care much for variations, experimentations or sweeping lyrical masterpieces. The beauty lies in the relaxed simplicity that exudes from his music. It is simply an extension of his personality. As he invites us into a journey through his mind we are taught it to take ourselves too seriously. It is all about the sweeping and sighing chaos through we all go through. All at once. Some of us find that hard to accept but it seems to me that In Between Dreams might just be the melodic guidebook we need.
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