Noahjohn - Tadpoles

Artist: Noahjohn

Album: Tadpoles

Though originally a stage moniker for surreal singer/songwriter Carl Johns, as he felt uncomfortable seeing his name on promotional material, Noahjohn has come to incorporate a revolving coterie of 25 members since 1997. In addition,Johns is also the founder of Madison, WI's Speakeasy Records and the Wild Chirp fanzine.

Not easily falling into any subgenre under the banner of alternative country, Carl Johns and ten friends have crafted a highly eclectic collective effort that wears his wry songwriting stamp prominently. Utilizing a voice that falls somewhere between Stephan Malkamus and Gordon Gano, Johns shares the Pavement frontman's penchant for writing lyrics gloriously out of meter, but making up for the fact with quirky alliteration. The foreboding cello of the opening "Standing on a Snake" has an exhausted, world-weary feel that colors much of the songwriting here, though the songs certainly don't communicate a defeatist tone. The loosely chugging "Slow Bear," the only track not written by Johns, is a fancifully swinging old-timey country workout, featuring the expert pedal steel that figures so prominently in the NoahJohn group dynamic. The almost comically tragic cousins of misfortune in "Clubfoot John" and "Old Ham," which is wrapped in perfect banjo and mandolin, are indicative of the sly wit and humor that many of these tracks carefully mask. Even as the wild punkabilly of "Educated Dummy" is driven by a garage band engine, there seem to be no weak cogs in the NoahJohn collective, with many arrangements even being unpretentiously sophisticated. Frequently combining the spiritual and the profane, tracks like "More Like Jesus" reveal a songwriter who is comfortable incorporating the most traditional themes into his impressively distinct aesthetic. Overall, a gloriously rough, tough, literate, honest, sweetly innocent, and nearly perfect set of songs from a much needed different voice. ~ Matt Fink, All Music Guide

If you love the great new music coming out of the USA at the minute (Wilco, Ryan Adams, Lambchop etc) you should own this album. Although 'Had a Burning' is a more fully realised effort, this is an astonishing debut. It ranges from heartbreaking melodies (Tadpoles), to old fashioned country stories (Old Ham, Clubfoot John).
It has reaffirmed my faith in modern music proving that looking back does not mean retreading old melodies but shows that you can use tradition to move forward. Noahjohn's music owes as much to punk and rock as it does to country.
Nearly every month I discover a fantastic new American band which puts the rather pitiful British music scene into shame. Noahjohn are one of the best of the moment and I fully reccommend buying both of their albums to date.

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