Review Summary: Heavier things have been accomplished than a decent follow up to Continuum, sadly Mayer drops the ball.
Heavier things have been done than topping a Grammy winning album like Continuum, but a monumental task it would seem. John Mayer’s Continuum had a huge impact on pop music the years that it flooded the radio stations and influenced my guitar playing as well as how I was to approach different genres of music (with open arms). Continuum introduced me to crafty yet meaningful pop song-writing, a blues style of guitar playing, and not just any blues…Mayer’s blues. It was a very central record for me, needless to say the follow up intrigued me.
Upon first listen I was taken back with disappointment, the songs seemed stripped down; incomplete versions of what could have been potentially great songs. Mayer, who is usually the new reigning king of blues, turned “Crossroads” into a bore. The overuse of the fuzz pedal created an electronic feel to the guitar sound and simplistic drum patterns put an overall lull in the song’s otherwise head boppin’ groove. Plus several of the songs felt like they had a country swing to them. “Half of My Heart” and “Perfectly Lonely” both had a sway of country in them from the lyrical melody to the guitar playing, it disappointed me.
The goods came in form of plain pop sensibility, “Edge of Desire” and “Assassin” both has great uses of instrumentation build up. The slow adding of layers during the interlude of “Edge of Desire” make the final guitar lines mean that much when Mayer finally wails them out. Mayer also shines, most of the time, when it comes to lyrical ability. “Friends, Lovers, Or Nothing” presents an age old topic and makes for an interesting journey of a song. "Heartbreak Warfare” features great use of imagery and subtle nuisances of a relationship, as Mayer does so often, but tinged with metaphors of struggles of war and combat.
After rounding out a few dozen listens, I realized that because Continuum taught me to come to grips with new genres of music with open arms, I should not knock Mayer for adding some country twang to his obviously superior blues playing, but it does not make up for lyrical downfalls (“Who Says” and “Do You Know Me”) and poor blues renditions as mentioned earlier. This is no-where near Continuum, not that I was expecting it to be, but I wanted some ballpark area songs, Battle Studies offers few and far between, just a decent pop album.