fbpx skip to Main Content

For reasons unbeknownst to myself, I’m usually a little late to the party regarding album recommendations, movie suggestions, a new place for dinner or literally anything someone raves to me about. Somehow, in my oppositional, defiant mind, a recommendation from a friend usually goes something like this. Friend: “Dude you should have a listen to the new Kendrick album, it’s incredible”. Me: “Oh cool man I’m glad you enjoyed it”. My Brain: “immediately dismisses, recalls ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, the buck stops there…”

I definitely struggle with the immediacy of digesting something straight away, but if I can push past that initial blood-brain barrier, I won’t regret listening to ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’ (Even though I still haven’t despite every second person telling me to do so). In true form, I was very, very late to the party of John Mayer’s music. But it still holds a lovely piece of real estate in my musical psyche.   

 

A slight digression from the music itself, I wanted to touch on some ways we metabolise music. I can’t speak for everyone, but my favourite albums took time and patience for me to enjoy. 

Think of it like a leather boot. More often than not, shoes that are comfortable out-of-the-box fall apart quickly. A leather boot however is a torturous experience to break in, but once all the blisters heal, your’re left with a companion for your feet that will serve you for many years to come. Whilst this isn’t a steadfast rule for every album (Yebba’s ‘Dawn’ had me in the first thirty seconds and I’m still blasting it now), there is something to be said about the hype of the initial release and then its ‘wearing in’ over time. Like that leather boot, your favourite albums will always be there in times of need, even if you have to dust them off or dig around in the cupboard for them.
It’s fascinating how our memories of yesteryear are somehow stamped into the melodies of the music that was with us at that time. When I first moved out of home, I was freshly eighteen, car-less and anonymous in a new town. For the first few months, I was listening to Thundercat’s ‘Drunk’ and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ repeatedly until for some reason or another I stopped. Every time I hear ‘The Beautiful Ones’ or ‘Friend Zone’ I’m transported back onto the 226 bus heading home from university and walking down Beaumont Street right on dusk.  It sounds silly, but those times were super formative for me. Having those albums that I can pull out from time to time means I can revisit memories that may not be with me otherwise.

‘Room for Squares’ is another album that acts more like a time machine than a listening experience. Filled with mid-pubescent angst, a face full of zits and a lust for guitar playing, fifteen year old Cormac came across a live video of John Mayer Trio playing at Crossroads festival on Youtube. Long story short, it blew my fucking mind. I cannonballed into the Mayersphere with full force, within six months I knew how to play most of his songs. Continuum, being my favourite Mayer album, sent me on a journey into soul and funk. With John’s help as well as a few other landmark artists I love, that golden era of soul and funk is now where I feel most at home. I had the thought recently to revisit John Mayer’s first album ‘Room For Squares’ and document my reaction. It’s not John’s best nor is it my favourite. But once upon a time I knew every word to it. Now, I’m sure you’ve had enough of the sentimentals, but before I go any further, I want to say I’m not a fan of album reviews. Listen, feel and form your own love for albums for god’s sake! Think of the following as a reaction video in the form of a transcript and without my horrific facial expressions. Have a listen, have a read, see what the album does for you. 

 

No Such Thing – Ah, we’ve arrived. ‘Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly’. I’m so happy to be listening though this album again, having this as the opener it sets you up for all of that wide-eyed relatable Mayer lyricism in the best way possible. Immediately I’m noticing more production elements, hard panned guitars, very obvious early 00s tastemaking here. It has so much charm though. John actually sounds quite young here and the energy really translates with this particular tune. 

 

Why Georgia – Firstly, what a great tune. As far as songwriting goes, it’s up there with one of John’s best, you really feel like you’re in that moment of reflection, it embodies the finite nature of things and it evokes that wonderful sense of melancholy most of us carry through life. You really just wanna say “leave that car in drive John! I’m telling you, speed off into the sunset!”. 

 

My Stupid Mouth – Now we’re getting into it, No Such Thing and Why Georgia are wonderful openers and when this tune begins, it feels right. Another acoustic guitar heavy track with a slightly more introspective touch to the lyricism. Another tune that’s so relatable, credit to John’s songwriting again here. In my teen years, this was one of my favourite tunes from the album, however listening back it almost feels a little underwritten in parts. Some lines don’t quite resonate with me as much now and I’m getting a little fatigued with the drum sound in these tunes! That’s not to say it doesn’t work though, this is the perfect track three, a little more personal and a little more exploratory musically. 

 

Your Body is a Wonderland – I wasn’t going to write anything about this one but then I remembered watching a Pat Pattison lecture where he mentions this song – I will attempt to paraphrase. “An odd number of lines creates a sense of longing, think the chorus of ‘your body is a wonderland’.. Your body is a wonderland, Your Body is a wonderland, Your body is a wonderland” (pauses)”. Ahhh just resolve it already! 

 

Neon – Ok so now we’re getting into it. This song feels like we’re peeping through the curtain a little more with Mr Mayer’s guitar prowess. A little more fusion sounding, neon is guitar heavy – very reminiscent of jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter’s style. Apparently John wrote this song with Clay Cook from the Zac Brown band. It might just be me, but I feel like the lyricism leans slightly more to a folky storytelling style even with its funky complexity. It is the first song on the album that isn’t written solely in first person. I dig it, it’s a classic. 

 

City Love –  This song feels like a little bit of a departure from the acoustic and playful themes from the earlier tracks. I love this song, for me it’s one of the best on the album. It feels orchestral with the fresh addition of strings combined with some uber cool electric guitar playing. It is sultry and groovy yet still maintains that lyrical candidness of prior songs, just with a little more of a late night twist to it. The guitar playing is really starting to shine here. Whilst the acoustic playing previously is subtly complex, John manages to make it accessible and remarkably listenable. Here, his electric playing right up front. 

 

83 – I’m really not sure about this one. For some reason it sits neither here nor there for me. A young John talking about a younger John perhaps? 

 

3×5 – This is such a great tune, I love the concept, the feel and the arrangement. It is as beautiful and colourful as the destinations described in the lyrics. It almost is a precursor for ‘Stop this Train’ in some ways, particularly the train beat rhythm behind the guitar. This is one song I never touched as I didn’t want to ruin it for myself. 

 

Love Song For No One – Putting this song at track nine was a good call. It’s one of those ones you discover after many listens through the album, not profound enough to hold up as a single, but still fun, catchy and relevant. I really like the live version of this tune where John plays with bassist DeLa, it inspired me to feel confident with my duo gigs which I play just with a bassist. 

 

Back to You – Another hidden gem. I love the ‘late night’ moodiness of the song. It is a little darker and less smiley then a lot of the songs on room for squares, however John’s sense of melody and incredible guitar playing is really showcased here. If you’ve been listening along with this, it feels like a slight palate cleanser. Pretty incredible there are still three tracks to go, a big first album here Johnny boy. 

 

Great Indoors and Not Myself – I’m not a fan of these tracks, so I will write about them together. It just feels like filler to me unfortunately. The album is already long and these songs have been chucked in. That being said, they do continue the running theme of acoustic driven singer/songwriter pop/rock. Is that a broad statement? 

 

St. Patrick’s Day – We made it. Good on you for getting to the last track (whether reading or listening). This is my favourite track on the album, to me it feels like a warm hug. Even faced with the idea that the main character has a holiday fling, the promise of warmer weather seems to be a resolution in itself. Classic six-eight balladry here. I’m a big fan of both the production, songwriting and performance here, it ties everything together in a nice little bow. 

 

This was such a fun listen –  a lot of nostalgic moments for me. I’m not sure how well this album has aged in comparison to more modern contemporaries, but it feels unique and special. It feels like John had fun making this album and as far as first albums go, it inarguably did very, very well. 

 

I hope to do some more of these in the future, let me know if you have any recommendations. Until next time…