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Mike Johnson | What Would You Do | review | rock | Lollipop

Mike Johnson

What Would You Do (Up)
by Brian Varney

I don't know much about this guy except that he was once in Dinosaur Jr. and that he plays on seemingly every song on Mark Lanegan's five solo albums. Considering how much I love the Lanegan albums, it strikes me as a bit strange that I've never bothered to seek out one of Mike Johnson's solo albums (this is his fourth) before now.

Right away, it's obvious why Mr. Johnson is such a fixture on the Lanegan albums. The first track, "Arise," whispers forth from the speakers, gushing with the same understated, folky accompaniment (lots of gently-strummed acoustic guitars, piano, and brushed drums) and a somber melancholy dressed in a deep voice saturated with restrained passion, a voice which at times sounds eerily like Mr. Lanegan's. I'm not even gonna venture to guess if Johnson is responsible for the sound of Lanegan's albums or vice-versa because I honestly don't know, but suffice it to say that the sound of What Would You Do makes a strong case for Mike Johnson and Mark Lanegan being brothers separated at birth or spiritual siblings or some shit like that.

That said, it should already be obvious where you're going to stand with this album. If you've heard and liked the Lanegan albums, you'll probably find quite a bit to like here (unless, of course, you're one of those whiners who thinks Johnson ripped Lanegan off or vice-versa). Since I've already revealed my position on this matter, my fanatical praise should come as no surprise. This isn't the sort of thing I listen to all the time, but there are times when it's the perfect accompaniment. This is the sort of album tailor-made for playing at 3 AM on a drunken Saturday night spent alone or first thing Sunday morning (or both), especially if it's cold and gray outside, and it's currently 11 AM on an overcast Sunday morning in late October. This is the sort of album that almost made me wish I smoked so I could get in the car with a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee and just drive, the beautiful grayness of my soul being rebounded upon me by the music coming from the speakers.
(PO Box 21328 Seattle, WA 98111)


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