John Mayer
Sob Rock


3.5
great

Review

by YoYoMancuso STAFF
July 16th, 2021 | 72 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sob Rock is 2021 rock (for better or worse)

At what point has an artist said everything they need to say? You’d be hard pressed to point to any performer’s eighth studio album as their peak. By the time an impressive and eclectic body of work has been compiled, I’d imagine it’s easy for a feeling of dread to slowly creep into the corners of an artist’s mind, steadily filling with the floodwaters of both real and imagined audience expectations. John Mayer doesn’t seem to be struggling with this mental block, having noticeably chilled out in recent years, filling his touring schedule with Grateful Dead dates while dropping some of the most reliably infectious pop rock of the new millennium every 3 years or so. Since 2009’s “Battle Studies”, Mayer’s songwriting has taken an admirable turn toward the vulnerable side of his personality, with his 2017 release “The Search for Everything” functioning as a serious examination of everything from his childhood wounds to the harrowing possibility of a loveless future. Despite its similarly slick production and guitar tone, “Sob Rock” is the flip side of this coin and sees Mayer creating for nothing but the sheer joy of creation itself. It’s 38 minutes of nostalgic camp that bears witness to no major artistic growing pains, and doesn’t attempt to make any statement, other than to say “come on in and enjoy the show”. This is John Mayer in 2021, thankful to have made it through the last year in one piece, and trying his damndest to have a blast making music.

Here’s the important question to answer; will the listener have nearly as much of a blast of Mayer himself? For the most part, yes. The word I keep gravitating toward to describe “Sob Rock” is ‘fun’, even through its narration of some occasionally heavy subject matter. What makes the record work is its self-awareness; opener and single “Last Train Home” leans so fully into the ‘80s pastiche that’s all over this tracklist that I find it admirable. It would be disastrous from the ground up in the hands of a lesser songwriter, but Mayer’s tastefulness and lyrical lead lines propel it toward a wonderful conclusion that culminates in a fantastic vocal feature by Maren Morris. Things truly pick up in the album’s second act, beginning with “Wild Blue”. Already affectionately known by Mayer diehards as ‘the fish tank song’ due to a preview shared on his Instagram page, it embodies the vibe Mayer is going for most effectively and unapologetically through its infectious vocal harmonies and the stunning fluidity of its ending solo. He follows it with the somehow superior “Shot In the Dark”, a sonic collision of his 2012 track “A Face to Call Home” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” which showcases Mayer’s enviable ability to turn clichés into revelations (“I’ve loved seven other women and they all were you”). This one is just begging for a nostalgia-driven music video, replete with sunset drives along the coastline, big hair, and more sweatbands than any of us are prepared to handle. Mayer is earnest to a fault, and the vulnerability he’s been cultivating since over the last decade is on full display in “I Guess I Just Feel Like”. It’s been available on streaming for 2 years now, but the ending still hits like a truck with its modal progression and awe-inspiring showcase of Mayer’s guitar chops.

With all this in mind, it’s doubtful that any dedicated Mayer fan will be disappointed by “Sob Rock”. However, I also don’t anticipate a world in which listeners lose their minds over this record. The album delivers, but rarely excels. It’s also not without its blemishes; “Why You No Love Me” in particular is one of the more ill-advised numbers of Mayer’s career, and is as enjoyable a listen as you’d expect a song with that title to be. Another unfortunate reality of “Sob Rock” is that it offers very little in the way of new material. With a 38-minute run time and a 10-song tracklist, releasing 4 singles ahead of the record’s release was a questionable decision that frankly weakened my excitement for the album quite a bit. Factor in the sheer amount of time that songs like “New Light” and “I Guess I Just Feel Like” have been out in the world (Mayer closed with the former when I saw him in Chicago almost 2 years ago), and the disappointing reality that these are two of the record’s major highlights, and it begins to feel like “Sob Rock” has less and less to offer the more a listener considers it. Of the 6 tracks previously kept from the public, two are major highlights, one is a major misstep, and the other three fall somewhat by the wayside in comparison to the singles. It’s unlikely that listeners will care about this years from now, but it’s certainly contributed to a slight souring on “Sob Rock” for me.

This isn’t to say it’s not worth listening to, because it absolutely is. Mayer has crafted exactly what he set out to craft with this release, a jovial and theatrical piece of ‘80s worship with a heart of gold and authenticity beneath its layers of irony. Some songs work wonders, and others don’t work at all, but that’s been the case with pretty much every album since “Continuum”. The fact of the matter is that John Mayer has further cemented himself as one of the best pop songwriters of the 21st century, and “Sob Rock” is a worthy addition to his canon.



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user ratings (70)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

believe me, i hate that "Say" reference in the first sentence even more than you do

Kompys2000
Emeritus
July 16th 2021


9474 Comments


Lovely review Jack, hard ghostpos

Not sure I'll check this since Mayer is hit-or-miss at the best of times for me but there's not a ton else I have planned for the next week so who knows

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don’t anticipate sput will vibe with this, as per usual, but appreciate the love Kompys

SteakByrnes
July 16th 2021


30036 Comments


John Mayer pretty cool tbh, good review yo-yo ma

nash1311
July 16th 2021


8233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was underwhelming imo. Not much stood out but I dug about half of it

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks Steak!



@nash if I didn’t feel the way I do about tracks 5 & 6 I’d probably give this a 3. Almost every song is solid but very few stand out

sonictheplumber
July 16th 2021


17536 Comments


a disgrace to jerry!

Source
July 16th 2021


19917 Comments


is this dude still a srv wannabe

FuzzyThoughts
July 16th 2021


114 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well I'm enjoying this far more than I expected going in. "Wild Blue" is the standout for me. Leaning toward a 3 or 3.5.

bloc
July 16th 2021


70370 Comments


"is this dude still a srv wannabe"

Haha probably, but he's an amazing player no doubt one of the best of this generation. Digging the 80s album cover too

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wild Blue is fantastic ye

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

also loving how the graph for this album looks like a hand flipping me off

IsildursBane44
July 16th 2021


764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Shot in the dark is sweet. I'm also so glad the three singles released way before this album are finally getting physically released somehow!

IsildursBane44
July 16th 2021


764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really enjoying this so far, and only take slight exception to Why You No Love Me. The lyrics are the only bothersome aspect though. That said, I'm big on most things John Mayer.

nol
July 16th 2021


12280 Comments


might check, but wasn’t sold on what I heard so far

Megabomberman
July 16th 2021


171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Why you no love me has a brutal lyric but it's still a great track for me. Agree that 6 new songs leaves the listener feeling a little short changed, still the 10 songs as a whole must be up there in his discog

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I can only picture 2012 era rage comics when I hear Why You No Love Me

theBoneyKing
July 17th 2021


24523 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was just decent on first spin. I actually liked “Why You No Love Me” :-/

nash1311
July 17th 2021


8233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Will second Wild Blue. Dug that one a lot

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2021


18958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

big Dire Straits vibes from that one



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