Tuesday, March 02, 2010

sounds like Stipe, dreams like Jung, loves trampolines, & reinterprets Bible from the future

I may just have a lesser version of SpyScott's spiritual gift (being able to tell if a CD is any good just by looking at the cover). I got this CD for a steal (almost) from a thrift store; I judged it by its cover..and its title, "The Future That Was" ...and now judging by this Amazon summary, it sounds like a good choice.

Perhaps Josh Joplin's greatest gift is his self-awareness. On "Happy at Last," one of the tracks from the Atlanta native's second album, he admits, "I sound like Michael Stipe / I dream like Carl Jung," beating to the punch those detractors who complain that his idiosyncratic adenoidal singing sounds astonishingly like those of the R.E.M. frontman. Whether the startling similarity is an accident of geography or design is immaterial, since it's Joplin's wry self-deprecating lyrics, clever wordplay, and brainy illusions that make you take notice. "I'm not the only cowboy in this one-horse metaphor," he sings in the anxious "I Am Not the Only Cowboy," adding, "I am not the only Caufield catching more than kids." In the space of a single song, Joplin's canny self-awareness curdles into self-absorption; in fact, it would be safe to say he identifies rather closely with J.D. Salinger's most famous character. Like Holden, Joplin not only has a fascination with death--references to the great equalizer are threaded through most of the 13 songs--but he also has quite a problem with growing up. "Time just hates me, that's why it made me an adult," he whines on "Must Be You," returning to a similar theme in "Siddharthas of Suburbia," when he decries, "The future is a stereo that eats your favorite tapes / The soundtrack to your youth cannot be replaced." But despite his raging neuroses, Joplin is a zany storyteller, whether he's writing a love song to his trampoline (where he admits he comes up with some of his best ideas for songs) or reinterpreting the Bible on "The Future That Was." Josh Joplin is a talent to watch. --Jaan Uhelszk
From Paste Magazine:

Josh Joplin Group - The Future That Was

Anyone who’s caught Josh Joplin’s live act knows he’s rarely at a loss for words. Speaking his mind like a street-corner preacher, the alt-folk bard uses the stage as a pulpit for his witty wordcraft, both in verse and between-song banter—all without coming off as a know-it-all. On his latest release, The Future That Was, he wastes no time in establishing the album’s tone—offering up the lyricalCliff’s Notes in the very first measure. “I think therefore, I think I am,” he opines, segueing into a collection of literate pop gems that thematically picks up where his underrated debut, the aptly titled Useful Music, left off with an engaging critique of both himself and his world.
After Useful Music, Joplin relocated from Atlanta to New York, adopting a more cynical, self-consciously serious tone in transit. Whereas his first effort was the product of several years of songwriting,The Future That Was is an unedited snapshot of Joplin’s headspace, a preoccupation with fear and doubt blanketing the record. As a result, the songs feel fresh and honest, weaving heady material with a parade of ear-grabbing hooks and melodies.
Folk records rarely feel this fun, and few pop albums sound this smart. The middle ground is Joplin’s comfort zone, though his lyrics suggest anything but solace. Hummable diatribes abound, namely “I Am not the Only Cowboy,” which reminds me of the amusing “always remember sunscreen” half-rap from a few years back. He pokes jab after jab at post-9/11 policy, yet fails to throw an uppercut because he’s “not the only poet who’s much too scared to fight.”
Proving he can turn a phrase with the best of them, Joplin jockeys from left-field editorial: “We shoot to last / we don’t ask why / everybody loves Americans” to comical self-deprecation: “I’m always late / but it’s really not my fault / time just hates me / that’s why it made me an adult.” His vocals are rightfully mixed up front, trumpeting his lyrics loud and clear.
Joplin also plays the bookish hipster card to a “T” by name-checking everyone from Siddhartha and Atticus Finch to P.J. Harvey and his self-proclaimed sound-alike, Michael Stipe. Even when he’s at his most snide, the prose is usually laced with a dry wit: “Some people wish they could be like Moses / and get their information from burning bushes / well, I've tried and the neighbors complained / I set their lawns aflame,” he quips on the springy “Trampoline.”
Yet behind every laugh lies a sigh. The record exhales with the superb title track, which half-jokingly begs Jesus to return as a talk show host, and the contemplative “Wonder Wheel” closes the album with Joplin confessing: “I’m not sure exactly how I feel.” Confusion usually makes for pretty good art, and The Future That Was is certainly no exception. Let’s hope Joplin doesn’t figure it all out anytime soon.


  1. any CD with "Siddharthas of Suburbia," as a song must be cool..

  2. LOL..


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!