'Sob Rock' review: John Mayer sounds as good as ever


With 'Sob Rock', John Mayer sought to update the sounds of his childhood to the present day.

John Mayer
Sob Rock
Sony Music

John Mayer didn't want to create a 'costume' record, he said in a recent interview with the newsletter Blackbird Spyplane.

With Sob Rock, Mayer said, he sought to update the sounds of his childhood — he mentions U2, Lionel Richie, Paula Abdul and other late-'80′s stalwarts — to the present day, a reupholstering of sorts. What he hoped to do, he says, was to grind the influences into a fine enough dust that you can make a new paste out of it.

Mayer mostly meets that standard on Sob Rock, a 10-track album that features songs released as early as 2018. The songs are all neat, emotionally legible — you never have to guess how he's feeling — and the guitar solos, keyboards and drums almost universally hearken back to the period Mayer is harvesting for inspiration.

If there are songs that sound costumed, it's the opener, Last Train Home, and the oddly named (and, it must be said, kind of putrid) Why You No Love Me.

But when Mayer sounds like himself — like someone who found something contemporary that he could generate by diving into the archives — he's as good as ever, an extremely talented songwriter whose thoughtful dirtbag appeal is as apparent as ever.

New Light is a fantastic track with pep in the step, and Wild Blue sounds like the best song The Wallflowers never made. When you hear Mayer just plain having fun, like he does on Guess I Just Feel Like and Carry Me Away, you're having a good time along with him. — Jesse Bernstein/The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

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