Sleep Through the Static - Jack Johnson (Brushfire Records)

CD review Despite the subject matter, if anything it is blander than 2005's In Between Dreams, Ella Stimson finds.

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The king of "music that makes you feel like you're at the beach" is back with his first studio album since 2005's In Between Dreams. Jack Johnson, a former professional surfer, is dealing with darker personal and political themes here, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from listening to him. The title track, about the Iraq war, must be one of the most chilled out protest songs ever recorded. Although they are a little clunky, the lyrics are actually reasonably angry ("Shock and awful thing to make somebody think/That they have to choose pushing for peace, supporting the troops/And either you're weak or you use brute force") but if you were not paying attention you could play it 100 times and think you were humming along to another meditation on being in love. Despite the subject matter, if anything it is blander than In Between Dreams, but there are a few songs like They Do, They Don't and the jazzy Monsoon with just enough pep to stop things becoming completely horizontal. In other hands, this mixture of quirky, reflective lyrics and feel-good tunes would be nothing more than sickly and solipsistic, but Johnson has enough charm to pull it off, just about.