Album: Jack Johnson, Sleep Through the Static, (Brushfire)

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The Independent Culture

Jack Johnson exemplifies the old showbiz adage about nobody knowing what will become popular. With UK sales of his In Between Dreams now around the 1.3 million mark, the Hawaiian surf-film auteur turned singer-songwriter is clearly a success – yet I still can't fathom his appeal.

Click the arrow to listen to a clip of Jack Johnson's track 'If I Had Eyes', taken from the album.

Perhaps it's something to do with his reluctance to confound listeners with innovation or prickly sentiment: the insipid reggae groove to "Hope", for instance, is neatly Police-like rather than rootsy, and the reference in the quietly effusive "Angel" to one who "gives me presents with her presence alone" is terribly gauche. But there's a clanging discordancy to lines such as "Archaism is a dusty road leading us back to nowhere" that grates harshly against the diffident arrangements, while Johnson's mealy-mouthed attitudes are exactly the kind of windy lyrical static that clogs up one's access to authentic emotional responses. "Sometimes it feels like a heart is no place to be singing from at all," he muses in "All At Once", though how he can tell is anybody's guess.

Download this: 'Sleep Through the Static', 'What You Thought You Need'