Firstly I have put this talk about ‘Sob Rock’ (Title Of The Year) in the ‘Let’s Discuss…’ section of the site, as it makes me think about lots of things that are not “This song has an excellent solo”, “This chorus is bangin'” (I have never used the word bangin’ but you know what I mean) or “This is the highpoint of the record.” Sure, I may mention all these things, but if you are looking for a straight album review, then sorry, not sorry. For the record, this is a 5 out of 5 record to me and is currently swimming near the top of my album of the year list alongside The Anchoress and Steven Wilson, far more obvious and long time loves of mine. That’s another thing to discuss. John Mayer, himself. Strapped in? Lets get it, let’s go…
John Mayer. Not an artist I ever hated but also not one that I ever really listened to. Sure, with my love of America/American culture/American music, the name has come up many times. Be it that classic Family Guy graffito or when he was dating Taylor Swift, he has always been there. Just not in my collection. It’s what I call the ‘Hootie Paradox’, an artist who manages to be massive but never swims in your waters. Hootie And The Blowfish, Phish, The Dave Matthews Band. Each of those names probably made more in the two minutes it took me to write that than I will make in a lifetime, but ask me to hum one of their songs and I could not, even with a gun at my head. Insert famous shrugging meme here, cause, you know, it is 2021.
Then I saw the cover of Sob Rock. Obviously we have been told forever not to judge a book by its cover, but when Mayer looks like he has just stepped out of an Andrew McCarthy movie, circa 1985, AND CALLED IT SOB ROCK, I was in. Then I listened to it and it was an absolute sparkling pop masterwork. Yeah, John Mayer, I KNOW. Those of us of a certain age, grew up in the era of the classic movie soundtrack cassette. Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club, The Lost Boys, a series of songs that outside of these collections you probably never would have heard, but suddenly they were in your ears and on your radar (insert joke War Games reference here, because I am hilarious) reminding you of favourite film scenes and then helping you make your own, even though at the age when most of these came out, I was too scared to even leave the house, let alone talk to girls. But these songs took me there and Mayer’s Sob Rock takes me back there. Maybe it is because I am currently thinking about A Certain Girl, that I am a sucker for such 80’s moments of emotion but Carry Me Away’s ‘I want someone to make some trouble, been much too long inside my bubble’ hits home brilliantly. Mayer is aping a golden age of music but also giving it his own stamp.
There are soaring guitars and keyboards throughout, essentially the soundtrack to Macchio’s ‘Crossroads’ meets the more well known ‘The Karate Kid’. Songs of yearning? The self explanatory ‘Why You No Love Me’, ‘Shot In The Dark”s ultimate Facebook status moment of “I want you in the worst way” Being the outsider? ‘New Light’s agonising “I’m the boy in your other phone, lighting up inside your drawer at home” Ouch. “Pushing 40 in the friend zone” AH. Thanks, Mayer, get outta my head, right?
Sob Rock is fantastic, I’m still confused by the name John Mayer being attached to something I love, aside from being Taylor’s ex, obvs, but you know, if any artist releases something I adore, I will go to bat for them. This is the moment for John Mayer. It’s 1986, you’re smiling about a girl. What could be more 2021, than looking back whilst also pushing forward?