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Mike Johnson
Gone Out Of Your Mind
Up Records

It's been a gloomy, wet spring here in the Bay Area; this CD has been the perfect soundtrack for the dreary weather.

I'd only heard of Mike Johnson as the final bass player in Dinosaur Jr, so it was a really pleasant surprise to find out he's put out five albums of his own since then. Johnson's musical world isn't exactly bright and cheery - he often comes across as a Northwest Nick Cave, or a cohort of Mark Lanegan (not surprising, as Johnson played on Lanegan's solo albums). Still, if you're in the mood for something dark and compelling, there are plenty of delights to be found here.

Gone Out Of Your Mind is bookended by a couple of light, folky acoustic guitar pieces, appropriately named "In" and "Out". Then we get right into the dark stuff with the pounding "On Track", whose thumping drums and grinding guitar riff reminded me of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Nicotine Stain". Johnson's deep, brooding vocals recall the aforementioned Mark Lanegan, maybe low-register Bowie, or even goth kingpin Andrew Eldritch from Sisters of Mercy.

The high standard is kept up from here on. "Rot" is a fine acoustic / electric hybrid with desperate lyrics. "Gone Out of Your Mind" is a slow, waltz-time ballad - very Nick Cave - while "Fade Away" brings more desperation, with a political edge this time: "The rich get richer every day, what the poor man got gets taken away". This one ties in nicely with the Voltaire quote on the cover: "The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundance of the poor".

"Can't Get it Right" is another dark grinder with some wild guitars and doomy, echoed vocals; it recalls the aforementioned Banshees, or maybe early 80s postpunk stuff like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Then comes the highlight of the album; "If The World Hadn't Gone Insane" could actually be Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, with its pretty slide guitar and accordion, and piano-led tune leading the general air of melancholy. Johnson's voice is a little bit more personal and intimate than Cave's, but this only adds to the appeal. One of this year's finest songs.

If you want a soundtrack for a dreary day, or just want to draw the curtains against the sunshine and curl up to do some serious introspection, you should definitely include this CD in your soundtrack.

-Gareth Bowles

Track listing:
1. In
2. On Track
3. Being Here
4. Rot
5. Gone Out of Your Mind
6. Fade Away
7. Can't Get it Right
8. If the World Hadn't Gone Insane
9. Real / Not Real
10. Pass By
11. Out

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