Jonnie Common – Master of None
Well fuck me this is brilliant. Having been a fan of Down the Tiny Steps – Jonnie’s previous band – as well as Inspector Tapehead (of course!) I was both certain this would be good as well as entirely uncertain as to what it would actually sound like.
He’s a funny fucker, Jonnie Common, equally at home as a producer of glitchy electronica, whimsical pop or gently plucked acoustic music. He slips so seamlessly between these incarnations that I found myself being confused by something which shouldn’t have been confusing, really.
The multi-faceted nature of his music made it hard to imagine what the record would sound like, but that was over-thinking things, because it sounds exactly like I just described it: a seamless blend of glitchy electronics, whimsical pop and gentle acoustica.
Master of None isn’t just a fucking brilliant album, it is also massively characteristic of the man himself. Jonnie is a friend of mine* and it’s odd how much this music embodies his actual personality. I may not be able to explain this to you in a way which will mean much to those who don’t know him, but the laid back charm, warmth, idiosyncrasy and sheer enjoyment of this record seem to spring straight from the heart of Jonnie’s odd wee soul. He is the kind of guy it is pretty much impossible to dislike, and this album feels sort of like that too.
Even the white boy rapping moment of Bed Bugs, something which always makes me a little twitchy, seems to work well in the context of this album not because it’s a splendid example of rapping (I personally wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway, for reasons of ignorance) but because it is in no way contrived, and fits well within the overall atmosphere of a record which seems at all times entirely comfortable with itself.
The lyrics reinforce this effect, being a disarming combination of the candid and the surreal, including gems like: “I can’t skateboard to save my life, but I like to imagine what kind of bizarre scenario might involve me having to do so”. It seems less like Jonnie has written lyrics, and more like he has simply opened his brain and allowed every digression, distraction and musing to spill into the record. Some of it is touching and some downright peculiar but somehow, instead of seeming either banal or deliberately obscure, it simply reinforces the approachability and delight of the album.
It’s also a record which compels you to move – even me! I don’t mean get up and leap around like a loon, but there is – dare I use the expression – a genuinely infectious groove to the whole thing which just means I can’t sit still whilst listening to it. I may not dance, because I basically can’t, but I have to do something!
This unavoidable incitement to stop everything and respond to the music in whatever clumsily twitching way you have at your disposal is key to the main reason this is a great album. Balls to the accessibility, the lovely contrast of sounds, the lush, warm production – these things are all true, but at heart this is a great album mostly because it is packed with absolutely immense tunes. Quirky they may be, but many of these have the heart of massive pop hits.
Infinitea, Hand-Hand, Summer is For Going Places, Photosynth… these songs are absolute fucking gems which blow the tits off the cack which passes for popular music these days, and they should be massive. Absolutely no disrespect to Red Deer Club, who are a great label and one I do my best to imitate with Song, by Toad Records, but when you release with smaller labels they of course don’t have the financial clout to force things into the public consciousness the way the big ‘uns do. And with this album I can’t help but wistfully imagine a world where Jonnie Common is a massive, global pop star. It would be a far better place than the one we currently inhabit.
Jonnie Common – Summer is for Going Places
Jonnie Common – Photosynth
*Yes, I know, massive subjectivity alert, but show me a music reviewer who thinks they are objective and I will show you a fucking deluded idiot. At least I try my best to flag up my subjectivity so you can take it into account when you’re reading.More: down the tiny steps, inspector tapehead, jonnie common, red deer club