With a bit of strumming of an electric guitar, thus begins the fourth album by Jack Johnson, "Sleep Through The Static." The opening track, "All At Once," sounds a little too reminiscent of the beginning of O.A.R.'s "Heard the World," even though Johnson's lyrics are darker. Right away the listener can tell that Johnson has had some troubling times while writing the songs for this album simply by listening to the lyrics. This album has been advertised as one of Johnson's first albums where he heavily utilizes electric guitar (as opposed to his last albums), but I really couldn't tell too much as the music itself sounded similar to his acoustic works.
"All At Once" plays with a mid-tempo electric guitar strumming and piano. Like most of the album, the sound of this song continues Johnson's laid-back music, but, underneath it all, when you really listen to the lyrics, there's something bleaker. This song is a great opener on an album where Johnson is unsure of his - as well as humanity's - place in the world whereas in his earlier songs he had seemed so sure. By the time the song ends, it quickly transitions into the next song, "Sleep Through the Static." This song reflects - in Johnson's own style - the nation's place in the current war. It seems like most artists today (from Bruce Springsteen to Lenny Kravitz) are all too eager to write about their stances on the war. However, some artists (Springsteen) can write about this subject matter in a catchy yet true way whereas some artists (Kravitz) write songs with poetic lyrics that get too lost in muddled, humdrum music. Unfortunately, this happens here too even though Johnson tries to connect with his listeners by using familiar sounds. And that's what the problem is: Johnson associates a song which he would like the audience to take seriously but delivers it to the same sounds as his previous lighthearted hits. He had better delivery of a life-changing song with "My Own Two Hands" from his Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the film Curious George.
The third song is "Hope" and it continues the mediocre music but, this time, with even more mediocre lyrics. I wasn't too impressed by this song as its chorus is too repetitive (and not in a fun "na na na na na na/na na na na, Hey Jude" kind of way, but in an annoying "when's-this-song-gonna-end-already?" way). "Angel" is one of the true hallmarks of this album and it's unfortunate because the song is only about two minutes long. It's so obvious that Johnson speaks of his children (and even perhaps his wife) with this song as the love he feels for them comes through so effortlessly in just two minutes. "Enemy" is the fifth track and it finds Johnson diving into his poetic lyrics all the while describing his views on his pacifism. It's a nice little song but not too noticeable simply because the song doesn't seem to musically go anywhere. Fortunately, "If I Had Eyes" follows with a Johnson's trademark sound with more noticeable piano and electric guitar. With words speaking of a lost love, it becomes apparent that maybe Johnson should primarily stick to songs about relationships as those are the ones that both sound best and do well on the music countdown charts (i.e. "Flake," "Bubble Toes," "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing"). The next track, "Same Girl," has Johnson alone with acoustic guitar, singing a little offbeat love song that is again simply not noticeable and can be heard as merely a preface to the following song.
"What You Thought You Need" is one of the few jewels on this album and Johnson speaks so earnestly in his propositions to his love interest. It's the longest song on the album (at five-and-a-half minutes) and yet it flows so nicely and fast that you might find yourself hitting the repeat button more than once. Track nine is "Adrift" and it finds Johnson romantically contemplating life and mortality. He does some nice work with his voice and I like his little verses that he writes to his children such as, "Your voice is your own/I can't protect it/You'll have to sing/A verse no one has ever known/Don't be afraid/Because no one ever sings alone." This same theme continues into the next song, "Go On," which is slightly more up-tempo. It starts off sounding like a break-up song but quickly establishes itself when Johnson breaks into the lyric, "We're bound by blood that's moving/From the moment that we start." With his break of an underlying wailing electric guitar, the music is different than anything else on this album and it's a nice breath of fresh air.
Finally, Johnson takes full advantage of having an electric guitar on "They Do, They Don't." With Johnson's laid-back attitude, though, don't expect any Jimi Hendrix-type riffs. He still retains his style all the while addressing his observations on society's hypocrisy. This is yet another glimpse into Johnson's bleaker lyrics and while the music stands out, the song - as a whole - doesn't. Track twelve is a little vignette clocking in at one-and-a-half minutes, entitled "While We Wait." Johnson attempts to turn his poetry into more of a haiku with this song and it doesn't impress in the least. It's such a small song that to spend any more time writing about it would be a waste of space (much of like this song is on this album). "Monsoon" incorporates the ever-so-slightest honky-tonk piano as Johnson's voice rises above its usual mellow tone in the chorus. It's one of the better tunes on this album and would've probably made a better closer for the album. Instead, we get "Losing Keys," which, although has a mix of world weariness and hope, doesn't relay any kind of specific message that so many expect with the end of an album. With this song, it feels as if the album just ends right in the middle. Maybe Jack Johnson has more to come in terms of subject matter like this, dealing with our unknown place in a world that's not quite sure where it's going.
All in all, Jack Johnson's "Sleeping Through The Static" is exactly how I described the song "Enemy": the album doesn't seem to musically go anywhere. It just is. There is no flavor that makes it really stand out among newly released music. Its mediocrity is not appealing and what good songs it does contain can be downloaded from the Internet. I generally do like Jack Johnson's music and I'm hoping there will come a time when we hear more of what made his previous albums so good.