• SHARE

In the off season, professional surfer Jack Johnson keeps himself busy — keeping his boards waxed, of course, but also polishing his craft as a songwriter. To follow up his debut, “Brushfire Fairytales,” he retreated to his living room-cum-studio with longtime buddies percussionist Adam Topol and bassist Merlo Podlweski and recorded “On and On.”

In these days of complex digital studios, the homemade sound of this album has a brisk freshness. Appropriately, “On and On” is loaded with buoyant idealism as Johnson wraps sharply spiced lyrics in sweet melodies and a laid-back attitude. Avoiding grand statements, his songs offer morsels of honest insight and powerful yet unassuming statements of our times. As a songwriter, Johnson confidently addresses a variety of social issues without cynicism or self-pity. The opening track, “Times Like These,” stakes out the panoramic view with quirky and funky rhyming: “And there’s always been laughing, crying, birth and dying/Boys and girls with hearts that take and give and break/And heal and grow and re-create.” From there, Johnson takes on everything from prostitution (“Taylor”) and pick-up bars (“Rodeo Clowns”) to the absurdities of progress (“Traffic in the Sky”) and the pernicious effects of global tourism (“Holes to Heaven”). (The antiglobalization movement should sign him up as its songsmith-in-residence.)

In the middle of this social morass, occasionally, love intervenes, if only halfheartedly. On “Wasting Time,” he sings over a lazy reggae-ish rhythm: “I’m just a waste of her energy/ And she’s just wasting my time/So why don’t we get together/And we could waste everything tonight.” On the last song, “Symbol in My Driveway,” Johnson also reveals a little of his self. He sings, “I’ve got a brand-new set of stencils/I’ve been connecting all the dots/Got my plans in a zip-lock bag/Let’s see how unproductive we can be/I’ve got a light bulb full of anger/And I can switch it on and off.” Hopefully Johnson will keep his singer-songwriter light bulb switched on, too, at least when the surf’s not up.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)