Mike Johnson
Gone Out of Your Mind Up http://www.tinymixtapes.comsites/default/files/arton5331_0.jpg

[Up; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5 3.5 / 5 (0)

Styles: indie rock, singer/songwriter, gothic folk
Others: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Mark Lanegan


http://media.tinymixtapes.com/

There are few musicians who can claim as central a role in the indie/alternative rock scene over the past 20 years as Mike Johnson. Beginning as a member of underground Oregon punk outfit Snakepit in the 1980s, Johnson became a significant player in the Pacific Northwest scene at the time of its explosion, leading to a close working relationship with Mark Lanegan that spanned a number of Lanegan's solo outings. Not content to rest on those laurels, Johnson spent several years as the bassist for Dinosaur Jr., a stint almost as long as Lou Barlow's original stay had been. Since then, he's been releasing consistently strong albums under his own name, mostly for the storied Up Records label. Given this pedigree, Johnson's relative obscurity in the indie community seems an unfortunate condition, and while his latest effort, Gone Out of Your Mind, is well-made, it's unlikely to sweep him to prominence.

Where to place blame? Well, unfortunately, it may rest squarely on Johnson's own shoulders. Johnson is a morose crooner at heart, and his songs are somber reflections on the travails of life and love. Such songs are perfectly suited to his jewel of a voice, a rich baritone which, along with his songwriting, puts him in league with Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. However, Johnson seems unable to let go of his grasp on the classic indie rock sound of guitars, bass, and drums served with a side of looseness. Certain songs work well enough with this setup, like in the desperate folk of "Rot" and the downtrodden western balladeering of "If the World Hadn't Gone Insane," yet even they seem to yearn for a backing more subtle and delicate. The rockers, like "On Track" and "Can't Get It Right," make this situation even more apparent. Focusing on Johnson's haunting voice and lyrics (easy enough, given his surprisingly pleasing melodies), I can't help but imagine sparse horn and string arrangements surrounding him, elevating his odes to the lofty position they deserve. Yet, I concede that it's unfair to malign an artist attempting to make his art with the means available to him. These are great songs, and any lover of morose and moody troubadours is likely to find this a memorable affair. I'll just keep my fingers crossed for an expanded studio budget the next time around.

1. In
2. On Track
3. Being Here
4. Rot
5. Gone Out of Your Mind
6. Fade Away
7. Can't Get It Right
8. If the World Hadn't Gone Insane
9. Real / Not Real
10. Pass By
11. Out

1. In
2. On Track
3. Being Here
4. Rot
5. Gone Out of Your Mind
6. Fade Away
7. Can't Get It Right
8. If the World Hadn't Gone Insane
9. Real / Not Real
10. Pass By
11. Out