From The Vault Part 7: Jack Johnson – On And On
October 22, 2016 Leave a comment
Alright, I know I am going to get a lot of shit for this one. Who’s is this asshat who claims to be a fan of indie geniuses like Jared Mees or Nick Caceres or Carissa’s Wierd, mocks John Denver, and then attempts to rationalize this shit? Well, that is me. This is the new Trainwreck’d. Feel free to you let yourselves out. But, seriously, before you do, hear me out, alright?
Jack Johnson has received so much shit over the years, and it’s not entirely unjustified. But, there is something to say about his avid followers and those who look beyond the hipster driven hatred…. They truly don’t give a FUCK. And there is nothing deplorable about this. I mean, we’re not talking about devout followers to despicable things like neo-nazism or religion, just people who love chill music. And Jack Johnson will always be the embodiment of “chill music”. And I can never truly hate anything that is based around the philosophy of “chill”.
So, why am I writing about this album? And why will it never leave my vault of ridiculousness? Basically, you have to remember the times. It was such a strange fucking time when this album came out. Especially for anyone “coming of age”. We were so fucking confused. A few years before we were told that the world was going to end after 11:59:59 on December 31st, 1999. Then “those people” hi-jacked three planes and crashed them right back into our country and left us fucking mortified to even go outside. We were beginning to realize that it was possible to hold communicable devices in our pockets all the time, but weren’t quite following. And let’s not forget that music in the mainstream was fucking awful. Carson Daily was still shamelessly supporting such terrible ear cancer on MTV that was probably the reason the station abandoned music altogether. The best golfer in the world was black, the best rapper was white (thank you, Chris Rock), the world was so damn confusing. And the comes this Jack Johnson character. I truly feel like he saved me in so many ways.
Now, it is important to note that On And On was Jack Johnson’s second album. There was Brushfire Fairytales which was amazing, but only broke the seal of the unpackaging of the King of Chill that would be Jack Johnson. In fact, I had never heard of this cat, until I heard “The Horizon Has Been Defeated” on a popular Portland based radio station and was amazed by now DIFFERENT it was from everything else playing on that shitty dough covered radio playing in the pizza joint I worked at. I remember first hearing it, and at that exact moment, a co-worker came in and instinctively explained to me that “this guy is great”, “he’s so chill” “Dave Matthews, Phish, blah, blah, blah”, “Brushfire Fairytales”. Soon after I went to a record store (think iTunes, but a physical location) in a mall (think Wal Mart, but equally divided), and picked up Brushfire Fairytales, and instantly fell in love with the man who would soon be known as The King of Chill (P.S. Is anyone actually calling him this? Or did I just create something, I seriously don’t know).
I was totally hooked by the time On And On came out into the world. This was what I was searching for. I was a young kid who was engrossed in the world of modern hip hop, which had very few desirable acts to promote, yet I was listening to Bob Dylan daily. I craved some super cool acoustic songs that could simply get my mind right and chill the fuck out. And this album did it. But, despite what most may think of this cat now, Jack Johnson had so much to say on this album. It was political, it was sometimes adorable, it was beautiful in so many ways.
With do justice, I will interrupt myself to note that the stereotypes of Jack Johnson may be entirely justified. Nowadays (and even Brushfire Fairytales) every track feels like it absolutely must be heard on a beach in an exotic land that is only occupied by white tourists. But, not On And On, and I refuse to give this one up. Yes, this is an album that can be comfortably listened to at a swim up bar at a Sandals in Jamaica without worrying about the bodies lying in the streets of Kingston. But, there is some essence to this album. It’s pretty God damned political if you really think about it. “Traffic In The Sky” is about 9/11. Jack Johnson may not think so, or would definitely disagree, but when I hear this track, I think about that day. Even “Dreams Be Dreams” and “Tomorrow Morning” have a bit of that feel to them. Overall, in so many different ways, this is Jack Johnson’s political attack against the “box with the view of the world”. Wanna hear the worst, check out the track for those last quotations, “Fall Line”, which is by far the best track on this album. And this track is 1 minute and 36 seconds of pure ecstasy. And it works as an extreme introduction to the track that follows, known as “Cookie Jar”.
The main thing that I want to leave here is that you can judge Jack Johnson for everything that he has done in his career. Maybe he has done a series of repeating “chill” songs that all sound the same. But, I really want people to realize that On And On is different. Yes, it was the one that probably made him the most famous, and kickstarted his career into a progression of mediocracy. But, dammit, we have this album. And it is fucking fantastic. It is an album that takes a social and political stance without shoving it in your face like a shithead vegan protesting outside of an Outback Steakhouse (does this happen?). I am basically not concerned with the stereotypes of Jack Johnson of today. I am a fan of this man for what he accomplished way back in 2003. And honestly, I enjoyed much of his later work, although I can distinctly remember when I realized that I was no longer the target audience of Jack. And that was when I said a silent goodbye, and took the good memories with me.
I’m not here to say that Jack Johnson needs to be more politically loud in his work, as On And On is not entirely so. I’m simply saying that even if you have formed some sort of opinion about the man, I feel like you really need to listen to this album and discover the fact that this dude had so much to say. The man can write the fuck out of a song, that is undeniable. But, if it substance in a song that worries you, On And On is the album that should definitely prove to you that Jack Johnson is a master storyteller in his own right. You don’t have to appreciate his entire body of work, and you don’t have to love the guy, but this is an album that embodies so much greatness that it is truly maddening to know that it has to be justified. Just listen to the album. Just really listen. You’re going to fucking love it. And if you don’t, well, that’s cool too, man.