Review Summary: Come and reminisce over all the times you’ve had, good and bad, with a loser and a weirdo.
Now that you’ve had almost a month to ‘catch up’ with thirty tracks’ worth of unreleased material, greatest hits, and the best of the past decade from Johnny Polygon, Tulsa’s very own musical renaissance man has bestowed upon us an early Christmas gift: the long awaited Wolf in Cheap Clothing
. The seven track EP is the third release from J.P. in 2010 – the others being his Valentine’s Day release Rebel Without Applause
and the aforementioned Catch-Up
– and marks the end to a strong year for the up-and-coming rapper/singer/proud medical marijuana cardholder. Made possible by 2Dopeboyz and the good folks down at DJBooth.net, Wolf in Cheap Clothing
is twenty-two minutes of love, heartbreak, sex, and partying with plenty of 80’s and 90’s influence to boot, minus the kitsch.
On Rebel Without Applause
, Johnny was faced with a dilemma – he couldn’t “figure out if [he was] a rapper or a singer”; ten months later, we’re still at the same impasse. As the sole vocalist on Wolf in Cheap Clothing
, J.P. appropriately alternates between the two; showcasing his deftness as both. The stark contrast, between the two (his comedic, at-times apathetic rapping and smooth, reflective brooding) always keeps things interesting.
Despite being made on the budget of a proud independent artist, the production on Wolf in Cheap Clothing
is remarkably eclectic and well-mixed. In fact, there’s something for just about everyone here. “Everyday’s a Holiday” is so lax and jazzy. “Handle My Wasted” is a frenzied party beat with bouncy, high-pitched synths. “Stupid Li(f)e” is almost orchestral in its stylistic variations. “Someday” is simplistic and demands foot-tapping in cadence. “F-ckin’ Awesome” revels in retro style. With influences that flashback to the 80’s and 90’s, the sonic diversity is complimented by a radio-ready appeal and a knack for catchy sing-song hooks.
But the ultimate appeal of Johnny is his lyricism. That being said, Polygon doesn’t so much fit the mold of a hyper-lyrical rapper than he does as a singer-songwriter. He has an eerie penchant to seemingly whip up ambiguous proverbs out of thin air and create contemplative Facebook status-ready quotations at will. He has the ability to make the most trivial topics interesting and his dry wit and abrupt, blunt punchlines are always equally unexpected and entertaining. Moreover, he has the appearance of being wise beyond his years, and there are oddly sagacious lyrical snippets to be found throughout the EP. But all of these abilities are trumped by his defining strengths,
Honesty and humility.
Rather than being pompous and self-aggrandizing, Johnny is humble and self-aware. Such a thing is almost a paradox; a rarity within the genre. But such things are commonplace and second nature in the music of Johnny Polygon. On “Stupid Li(f)e” he admits that his materialistic lifestyle is insubstantial. He finds himself emotionally lost and heartbroken on “Nevermind”. “Invincible” is a stream-of-consciousness narrative that begins when Johnny wakes up next to some slut, unaware of where exactly he is. Everything has a sense of empathy to it, as if Johnny has truly lived every single thing he purports to have suffered through in his music. In short, Johnny’s an entirely relatable character: he’s had his good adventures, but he’s also been dejected and down in the dumps and he’s had more than fair share of his trials and tribulations.
Will Johnny ever make it big time like he so often expresses his wish to do? Maybe. But until then, he’ll continue casually playing the humble everyman role. Either way, there’s no doubt the Oklahomie’s on the come up. Record companies will tell him to represent a place more rugged, and he’ll just say, “f*ck it. Tell ‘em I’m from Oklahoma and watch ‘em love it.” Well, I love it, Johnny. Nicely done. I’ll see you at the Cain’s in a few days. Bet with this EP there will be more than fifteen people at the show.