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Reviewed by Mike Farley
Morbid humor, you say? Yeah, the first track, “We’re All Stuck Out in the Desert,” has lyrics that may strike you as odd: “We’re all stuck out in the desert / And we’re gonna die / Wipe that salt and sand from your blistering eye.” With words like that, you’d expect the mood of the song to be equally depressing, but the fact that it’s so uplifting adds to the intrigue right from the start. The title track is the kind of anthem Shawn Mullins wishes he could have written, with a shuffling sort of white-boy rap thing going on.
“End of the Affair” is breezy, alternative-tinged pop – think a male version of Jenny Lewis – while “THC” and “The Ballad of King Coyote” sound psychedelic, like the kind of thing you might hear blaring out of your older brothers’ speakers amid a cloud of pot smoke, while “Give It Up” is a rocking number that might be the closest thing to Rice’s track on “The O.C” soundtrack, “So Sweet.” Two of the best songs are buried near the end: “What Am I Going to Do?,” which has Beatle-esque guitar tones and melodies, and “Hard to Believe,” which is a straight-ahead pop ditty packing a huge chorus.
There are a few clunkers – witness the droning “The Middle of the Road” – but this is mostly a shining star that somehow got lost among clouds of 2007 releases. Johnathan Rice is the kind of artist that should be on your radar, even if you don’t want to get stuck in the desert with him and his sand-covered friends.