American singer/guitarist John Mayer became a huge star in 2006 after the release of his breakthrough album “Continuum”. Mayer subsequently surpassed this in terms of commercial success with the 2009 album “Battle Studies”. The album features big hits such as “Heartbreak Warfare”, “Who Says”, “Half of my Heart” and “Perfectly Lonely”. Twelve years have passed and in that time he has produced little remarkable work.
That is unfortunately not going to change with his latest album “Sob Rock”. Mayer himself says that the idea behind the album, the concept so to speak, is that he recorded an album in 1988, which has been shelved and is now being released. If that’s the concept and not the truth, he’s done a great job. “Sob Rock” does indeed sound dated. That is certainly no coincidence, we do see more artists who hark back to the plastic era of the eighties on their latest albums. For example, think of Laura Mvula’s “Pink Noise“, which is a big nod to the eighties.
It is clear that Mayer was ready for a new album, but has managed to relieve himself of a burdensome duty. “Sob Rock” is an easygoing album that can’t even approach the level of its illustrious predecessors. That said, it’s certainly not a bad album. It does indeed sound like a mixture of a solo album by Glenn Frey, Bozz Scaggs, Don Henley and Steve Winwood. Truly an amazing achievement. The album doesn’t last 45 minutes, doesn’t push itself on anything, doesn’t irritate anywhere, doesn’t evoke any emotions, but it flows nicely. Nothing wrong.
In terms of the songs, there are no real highlights on this mellow pop-rock album, which is best enjoyed late at night with something tasty and strong to drink. The most beautiful track is “I Just feel like”, because of the typical Mayer sounding guitar solo that lifts the song to a slightly higher level. For the remainder, the album is filled with songs that are certainly very weak lyrically, and often do not rise above an adolescent “I love you”-level.
Mayer seems very aware of the quality of this album. On the internet, you can watch an interview with Zane Lowe, the New Zealand DJ and producer in which Mayer says: ‘I want to get in trouble. I want someone to tell me this is shit.’ Well, I won’t say that. The album is well made and with fellow producer Don Was, he used the ideal producer to make an album that sounds like it was made in 1988. Artistically it is indeed little, he won’t score a big hit with it, and if he doesn’t put too much of it on his tracklist live, the audience will keep coming.
In short: “Sob Rock” is only for the die-hard Mayer adepts. For people who have yet to get to know Mayer, much rather listen to “Continuum” or “Battle Stories.” (6/10) (Columbia)
Don't forget to follow our Spotify Playlist: