Release Date: Feb 5, 2008
Record label: Brushfire
Dig into surfer/strummer Jack Johnson’s fourth solo CD, Sleep Through the Static, and you’ll find unexpectedly somber pronouncements. ”There’s almost nothing that you could tell me/That could ease my mind,” he complains on ”All at Once.” ”Sometimes time doesn’t heal,” he later observes on ”If I Had Eyes.” Whoa — don’t go killing our buzz, bro! Then again, those dark sentiments are balanced by warm melodies and gently rootsy arrangements. Good musical vibes are Johnson’s stock-in-trade, and on that count, this dude will always abide.
Much of the press surrounding the release of Sleep Through the Static recounted Jack Johnson's claim that he gave all his peppy pop tunes over to the Curious George soundtrack and how that, combined with personal losses -- including the death of his cousin Danny Riley, to whom the album is dedicated -- led the surfing singer/songwriter into darker territory for his fifth album. To a certain extent, all of that is true, as the album does open with an atypically stark, moody number in "All at Once" and there are some darker sentiments lurking within the 14 songs here, but it takes some close listening to find the sorrow flowing through some of the words. Some very close listening, really, as Johnson's sand-brushed, gentle voice doesn't command attention.
Jack Johnson is a platinum-selling superstar, and no amount of critical lightning bolts can disrupt the behemoth of feel-good rock he’s become. And the fact that he’s crafted yet another replica batch of breezy, walk-along-the-beach jams won’t matter to his fans, who keep coming back to their sandal-footed prophet regardless. But what’s really baffling is why Johnson can’t break out of his own safe mould, why tempos never shift past first gear and why he’s so adamantly against studio experimentation.