Album: John Mayer, Battle Studies, (Columbia)

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The Independent Culture

Though only moderately appreciated in the UK, in America John Mayer is a kind of all-purpose one-man media industry, combining a highly successful music career with sidelines in design, journalism and clothing, whilst becoming a gossip-column fixture through his relationships with such as Jessica Simpson and, most recently, Jennifer Aniston.

It's the collapse of this latter tryst that presumably provided the creative spark behind Battle Studies, which finds a dying relationship anatomised in ultimately tiresome detail in songs like "Heartbreak Warfare", "Perfectly Lonely" and "Friends, Lovers or Nothing". The Clapton-esque blues guitar prowess which has seen Mayer dubbed "Little Slowhand" has mostly been replaced here by a sort of California confessional style which owes much to the likes of Jackson Browne. Songs such as "Half of My Heart" and "Edge of Desire" are couched in a denim-clad AOR soft-rock that could be Bread or Pure Prairie League. It's this bland aspect of Mayer's music which makes his songs easy to project one's feelings onto; but ultimately, I'd take the ZZ Top-style version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" over the rest of this album any day.

Download this: Crossroads, Heartbreak Warfare, Who Says