Johnny Unicorn is the Seattle based progressive rock artist that uses many styles and different musical elements in his work. His fifth album, Thinking Hard To Overcome Nervousness is a blend of comedy, human foibles and some very odd sounding music. Joining him in this unique endeavor are several guest musicians: Naomi Adele, Matt Clifford, Jennifer Collier, Rogelio G. Garcia, Alex Hamel, Jhole Jackson, Bea Miller, Davy "Defos" Nefos, Corey Eno Ruffin, Brian Woodbury, Phideaux Xavier and Lauren Zeck.
The first track on the album is “Break Out!” When it began to spin, I felt like I was in a retro disco bar. The beat and the synth music really took me back. Then the lyrics began and I froze. His voice was a whole lot like Kermit the Frog on a bender and he was singing about pimples. Yeah. You heard me. Zits and dermatology are the theme for this one. Bars of soap and breaking out to the tune of a mild guitar riff or two and some multi-instrumentation that was pretty good until about three minutes in and then the cacophony of noise made me long for my ears to fill with blood so I didn’t have to listen to any more. Wow. I appreciate the humor, but really? Zits? We don’t even like to look at them in the mirror, much less listen to a song about them. Maybe that was the point, but after the first three minutes, it lost me completely.
The second song on the album was “I Can’t Believe It’s Christmas”. It begins with lyrics popping out right away in a funky beat that had a blend of sax, percussion, guitar and the sounds of hair plucking. Oh, and jingle bells. Unicorn sings a humor filled song about it being Christmas and lamenting the entire act of gift buying and sending. I can identify. We all can. It was funny and I liked it. With the humor and genuine dismay radiated from the song, well I had to suppress a nod and a grin. This is my favorite piece on the album. The strong melodies presented a great picture and set the tone of the piece. It had good imagination and frankly, was this album’s saving grace.
“Bullcrap” is the seventh song on the album. The track begins with a pensive blend of percussion and synth keyboard sounds and leads right into the very quirky lyrics. Unicorn is almost rapping in this one. Full of social foibles and close to tuneless jive, this song is barely that. However, the humor aspect is rich and full of imaginative and thought provoking lyrics. The sheer ranting quality of this one had the ear bleeding effect again and I had to struggle to make it through the song. The name of the song is a bit apt.
Johnny Unicorn is an artist that can swing from country one minute to rap the next. His ability to create humor with everyday social foibles is masterful, but he loses me with some of the content and structure of his work. The use of sound as medium is very strong and if you like a sense of humor with your music/near commentary then you may enjoy this album. Unicorn has a great imagination and an innate ability to switch gears in vocal style that I can appreciate. It is the overall sensation of cats scratching their nails on a chalk board that frankly keeps me from liking more than the Christmas song. This is not an album I will ever play again.
Key Tracks- I Can’t Believe It’s Christmas, Bullcrap, Break Out!
November 9, 2011