Jack Johnson has released his first studio album in 4 years and there are some predictable things about this album. It will of course soon be at the top of the billboard charts in the States, it does have that wonderfully laid back lyric rich surf style of years gone by but, and this is a big but, this time Jack has an axe to grind.
In his own words in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine he said :
“this album shares what’s been on my mind during the past year or so. A year in which I sailed through the North Atlantic Gyre for a documentary about plastic pollution in the Ocean. A year in which Trump was elected as the President of the United States. A year in which I camped, surfed, got stitches, explored, dreamed, shared time and endless conversations with my family and friends…all of which inspired these songs”.
The construction of the album is different too as Jack, by his own admission, usually makes sketches of the songs and then sets up time to record them and make an album. This time he didn’t want to lose the “spirit that a song has in its rawest form” and so the original sketches became the final recorded versions on today’s release. You can hear this in the songs, you can hear the honesty, you can hear that this time Jack has something he really wants to say.
‘All The Light Above It Too’ is Jack’s eighth album and although well known for his environmental advocacy work, Jack releases an album that makes you think he wants to make a bolder stand than in days gone by.
The first release from this album was ‘My Mind Is For Sale’ and it is very obviously an anti-Trump song, only backed up by a video showing Jack building walls in children’s blocks and then tearing them down. This is the fourth song on the album but not the only one that has something to say. A feeling backed up by the fact that this album was very much instigated by Jack himself and not a pushy record label. Jack has something he wants to get off his chest!
Jack, when asked about this, will simply say he writes about what’s on his mind and so it is evident that politics is a thing on his mind, he seems upset about the divisive nature of politics at the moment. Not just literal walls to divide but the more dangerous divisiveness of separation by race and religion. This message will surely not only resonate in America.
In the songs on this album Jack seems to have decided the time is right to stand up for the things he cares about. One of his idols Jacques Cousteau once said “we must protect the things we love” and it looks like Jack had decided that,using his medium of music, he will try to do that. Not by preaching but by trying to reconnect people and nature.
The first four songs on the album are very much social and political commentary but by the time you get to ‘Big Sur’, and its familiar feel, it’s like a respite from that, a familiar safe place. Big Sur is somewhere Jack and his family camp and so I’m sure that feeling is no accident.
The song ‘Sunsets for Somebody Else’ was written whilst on a surf trip with Kelly Slater, the record breaking US surfing legend, and Jack says the break from working and the constant surfing gave him the space needed for these songs to come to him; let’s not forget that in his youth Jack was a pro level surfer.
It’s easy to think that this is Jacks first foray into social and political comment but if you really listen to his other albums it’s there, hidden, amongst the perfect soundtrack to your life. However maybe this time Jack has been a little more overt with it. Whatever you want from this release, wether a return to the familiar excellent music or the feeling that with age Jack feels it’s time to be heard, that it’s his turn to stand up for what he believes, then you will be fully satisfied.