Posted by: Chris Lockard | November 19, 2009

Eclectic Noise: John Mayer Battle Studies

John Mayer – Battle Studies (B)

It has almost been a decade now since John Mayer burst onto the national stage with “No Such Thing” and “Your Body Is A Wonderland”. Where the Jack Johnson’s and Jason Mraz’s of the world stumble at times and have faded in and out of the national stage, Mayer has had a string of hits and has constantly put out records that have had strong sales and strong praise, a rarity in this decade. Some are baffled at how Mr. Mayer has achieved this but to the trained ear it’s very clear how he has kept his status the past nine years:

A. He changes sounds/tone with each record while never drifting too far away from his core sound.

B. He can write a damn catchy tune.

John’s new record is no different. In a nice change from Continuum’s blend of blues with pop, Battle Studies finds him changing his sound once again to one that has a hint of earlier U2, while also building and expanding on the Jackson Browne/Tom Petty influenced tracks from Continuum and the track “Say” that was part of the Bucket List movie soundtrack.

It’s fair to say that the Jackson Browne/Tom Petty side of the record is the more dominant tone of the record and it succeeds more often than not. The track “Half Of My Heart” ,which features a brief appearance from Taylor Swift, is easily the album’s best single and is sure to not only attract Mayer fans but also Swift fans and the older crowds that have been waiting for the Petty sound of the 80’s to return to music. While most younger acts today have been very much influenced by the more underground sounds of the 80’s such as The Smiths, Joy Division and Sonic Youth which are either unbearable to listen to or the best bands you’ve ever heard depending on the listener, Mayer realizes that most still love to sing along to 80’s hits such as “Runnin On Empty” and “Free Fallin”(myself included).

Mayer also taps into U2 briefly on the album with the opening track “Heartbreak Warfare”, a song with a building guitar sound that could easily be mistaken as being from a Joshua Tree demo. The song delivers big and sets up the tone of the album’s lyrics as John writes out the scars left by his failed relationships from the past three years. The problem though is that John never really returns to this sound, at least not on the level of this song, for the rest of the record. By the end of the album, I was almost hoping that John had decided instead to make two albums, one expanding on this sound and the other one totally committed to the Browne/Petty sounds he does so well.

Now this is definitely not a perfect record as some of the tracks do miss in a big way. A cover of “Crossroads” seems out of place and is nowhere near as good as the Cream version of the song. “Assassins”, the other U2 like track on the album, falls flat with a forgettable chorus.”Edge of Desire” makes Mayer sing pretty high in his range and it ends ups sounding more like a whine than the plea he intended.

John Mayer knows what he is doing. He is at the point in his career where it is better to take less risk and improve your core sound. While he may never write another “Daughters” he will continue to put out albums that have at least one radio friendly track and are generally good records to listen to until something else comes along. Battle Studies is more than likely going to end up being not remembered as the guide for the battles of love that Mayer has said is the theme of the record, but more likely for being the blue print of what we can expect from him over the next decade, and thats fine as long as the hits keep coming.

Top Tracks: Heartbreak Warfare, Half of My Heart, Who Says, War of My Life

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Responses

  1. John mayer has gradually been transforming into an even douchier form of John Mayer.. lol this song sounds good though.


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