CD Review of Continuum by John Mayer

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Released: 2006
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“Your Body is a Wonderland” was one horrific monster of an overplayed single.

That was not John Mayer’s fault.

It’s become awfully fashionable to dismiss Mayer’s music out of hand, to the point where you’d hardly suspect he’s the same guy whose debut full-length was greeted with generally favorable reviews five years ago. As it turned out, heralding Mayer as the Great White Hope of folk-inflected adult alternative music was every bit as unfair as lumping him in with Train and matchbox twenty after airplay fatigue set in.

To his credit, Mayer has done a fairly admirable job of trying to wriggle out from beneath the Sensitive Pop Guy mantle since Room for Squares was a hit. Yes, Heavier Things had the oh-so-dreamy “Daughters” on it, but it also found the guitarist taking pains to showcase his blues chops and earn a little street cred. He followed it up with the live set Try!, credited to the John Mayer Trio, which was clearly (even a little self-consciously) designed to move the public’s perception of his music more in line with where he’d like it to be.

None of this has worked, really, but you can’t fault a guy for swimming upstream. And now here’s Continuum, which fits neatly into Mayer’s progression from Teen Idol to Career Musician.

It isn’t beyond reproach – leadoff single “Waiting for the World to Change” gives a lazy nipple twist to “People Get Ready,” the chorus to “The Heart of Life” is a baldfaced nick off some damn song or other, the lyrics are occasionally groan-worthy, and then there’s Mayer’s thoroughly unnecessary cover of “Bold as Love” – but heard with open ears, Continuum evokes favorable comparisons to Clapton’s post-rehab output.

It isn’t for everyone, naturally – music this relentlessly tasteful rarely is – but Mayer’s songwriting talent and gift for pop craft are undeniable to all but the most churlish of pointy-headed hipsters. Call it a guilty pleasure if you must, but there’s some actual substance here. Whether Mayer ultimately gets where he’s so obviously trying to get is anyone’s guess – but if he fails, it won’t be for lack of effort.

~Jeff Giles