Jack Johnson - To The Sea
To The Sea conspires to leave Lionel Richey’s Sunday mornings resembling something akin to the Somme, so effortlessly laid back and easy is Mr Johnson’s take on life. Perhaps not surprising when one takes into account the fact that this, the fifth album from the multi-million selling artist, was recorded at Mango Tree Studios in Hawaii. Not that he’s promoting the pina-colada playboy lifestyle; walking the talk he recorded the album using 100% solar power and will be donating 100% of his tour profits to support the environment and fund educational projects. Sting take note before Paxman catches up with you again.
The album may hail from a volcanic island but there’s no seismic activity here, the music slowly enveloping the listener caught in the path of the slow and steady lava flow goo of Johnson’s rich Lynott infused tones. In fact, Jack’s so laid back that he’s almost comatose by the second track in which he confesses that he’s ‘no good with faces’, or names. Don’t bog him down in details, it’s enough for him to know that we all exist; indeed the whole album operates within the philosophical fudge of Bobby McFerin’s ‘Don’t Worry (Be Happy)’. You’d be forgiven, then, for expecting this to be an insufferable hour of impossible smugness but, damn his eyes, Jack Johnson is thoroughly likeable in pretty much the same order that Paolo Nutini is thoroughly punchable. They may be cut from the same cod soul cloth but Johnson’s effortless ease is immeasurably more natural and palatable than Nutini’s awkward Albert Steptoe contortions.
To The Sea works best when Johnson awakes from his slumbers to catch a brief wave of exuberance and thus it’s the relatively upbeat grooves of recent single ‘You and Your Heart’ and the Wings esque ‘ When I Look Up’ which immediately draw you in. Even his inevitable ska pastiche (‘Turn Your Love’) worms its way into our good books by taking a chart friendly route which tips more than a casual nod towards Blondie’s version of ‘The Tide Is High’.
It’s not all high fives and hammocks however and a couple of tracks, most notably ‘My Little Girl’, appearing to be unnecessarily frothy audition pieces for a forthcoming, as yet unwritten, Disney soundtrack. The worst crime, however, is the wholesale plundering of The Kinks’ ‘Picture Book’ for his ‘Pictures of People Taking Pictures’, an ill judged association from which he cannot expect to emerge victorious. Quibbles aside though, this is a warm and uplifting album which may prove to be a timely antidote to the era of austerity. There’s nothing to trip you up, lyrically or musically, although by the same token nothing to really snare the attention or inspire devotion. Like a butterfly blown in on a summer breeze, it’s a brief delight which will soon fade and die. Enjoy it while it lasts.