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Published: 2003/06/26
by Chip Schramm

On and On – Jack Johnson

Universal Music 075012

Jack Johnson's sophomore release is a seamless
continuation of both the style and substance that were
established on Brushfirse Fairytales, his 2001 debut.
A gifted wordsmith, Johnson's
songs are more a collection of beat poems set to
guitar than traditional musical compositions. Most of the tunes are no more
than a concise two
minutes in length. The compact nature of the tracks
allows for more breadth on the album, with 16
tracks total. At the same time, the variety of themes
and production techniques employed display a
greater depth and maturity than his debut. The studio of choice was located
in Hawaii,
Johnson's home state, and the comfortable setting
translates over into a relaxed and organic album.

"Times Like These" is the first track and
contains the album's title within its verses. This
seems appropriate because Jack Johnson's lyrics do
indeed seem to go on and on, flowing almost
effortlessly out of his lips throughout the CD,
pausing for only a few breaths while he shifts from one
stanza the next. On this song in particular, Johnson
bounces back and forth from polar opposites, playing
with words like "stop" and "go," "fast" and "slow", and
"those for peace and those for war." "The Horizon
Has Been Defeated" is set to a calypso/soft ska
rhythm and juxtaposes odd word combinations like
"thingamajigsaw puzzled" and "hallelujah zig zag
nothing" to weave an eclectic combination of sonic

"Taylor" is one of the stronger songs on the
album. Johnson's curt and deliberate strumming on
acoustic guitar creates a swift rhythm for vocal
phrasing that could only be called dream of

"Such a tough enchilada filled up with nada

Giving what she gotta give to get a dollar bill

Used to be a limber chicken, times a been a ticking

Now she's finger licking to the man

With the money in his pocket flying in his rocket

Only stopping by on the way to a better world."

This along with, "Symbol In My Driveway," at the
end of the album are the two most interesting songs on an album full of notably unique cuts.
"Holes To Heaven" is also strong, with the use of
first person plural (we) making it seem almost
autobiographical in the way that "Mudfootball"
was on Johnson's first album. "Dreams To Be
Dreams" is a cool song if only for the fact that he
finds a way to fit the word "euphemism" into it.

There are a few different themes at play throughout
the album. "Cupid," "Wasting Time," and
"Cocoon" are all sentimental love songs.
"Gone" and "Symbol In My Drivewar" both make
some sidelong references to materialism and
spirituality. And the most politically loaded number
on the album, "Cookie Jar," serves as an allegory
for gun control and media responsibility.

While Johnson's singing and lyrics are far and away
the focal point of On and On, the studio work of his
band mates and producer are not without merit. Merlo
Podlewski really comes on with pronounced bass lines
on "Wasting Time," while Adam Topol's percussion
skills shine on "Rodeo Clowns." The latter tune
was the song that originally gave Johnson his break,
when Garrett "G Love" Dutton covered it on his
Philadelphonic album. Johnson also gives that tune
delicate treatment with precise picking that makes his
guitar sound almost like a mandolin. Producer Mario
Caldato, Jr. obviously knew that he didn't need to do
much tweaking on this album, and the whole effect is a
crisp, clean sound that is dominated by Johnson's
silky-smooth voice.

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