Music

Battle Studies

John Mayer, Battle Studies | BATTLE WITHIN John Mayer's softer side once again wins on his latest

BATTLE WITHIN John Mayer's softer side once again wins on his latest (Richard Phibbs/Corbis Outline)

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Battle Studies

Genre: Rock; Lead Performer: John Mayer

The John Mayer mirror has, as it were, two faces: the faultlessly earnest, furrow-browed blues-pop crooner of record, and the starlet-?devouring, Twitter-baiting jokester who would, one imagines, love nothing more than to give guys like Earnest John a big fat wedgie. In a way, it’s too bad that he doesn’t. Battle Studies is, for the most part, status quo Mayeromics — an expertly calibrated study in soft-pedal confessions, searching lyricism, and mildly groovy guitar licks.

Sure, he tries on some different sonic suits — the shimmering Joshua Tree-era U2 facsimile ”Heartbreak Warfare”; a largely redundant cover of the Cream?via?Robert Johnson blues classic ”Crossroads” — and comes gratifyingly to life on the swooning blue-eyed-soul lullaby ”All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye.” (Taylor Swift, the album’s sole guest, provides a sort of flash cameo on pleasant-enough back-porch balm ”Half of My Heart.”)

A rare dose of his jackassy humor crops up, to welcome effect, on first single ”Who Says,” a blithe and-this-bird-you-cannot-change ode to women, weed, and on-the-road freedom: ”Who says I can’t get stoned/Call up a ? girl that I used to know/Fake love for an hour or so.” Elsewhere, love is lyrically, repeatedly, a battlefield (”Heartbreak Warfare,” ? ”Assassin,” ”War of My Life”), but musically, it doesn’t feel quite as urgent.

Mostly, he noodles amiably toward Studies’ conclusion, apparently content to stay within the confines of the Dave Matthews/ Jason Mraz (and yes, John Mayer) sensitive-dude rock template. In this Battle, it seems, one side never really stood a chance. B-

Download This: Listen to the song Heartbreak Warfare at imeem.com

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Originally posted November 11 2009 — 12:00 AM EST

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