Jenny & Johnny I’m Having Fun Now (4*)

Monday, 19 November 2012

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As someone who spent his teenage years living through the sixties heyday of AM pop radio, I’ve always reckoned I could spot a classy piece of pop music, and to me the best part of the late seventies New Wave/Punk Rock era was the surge of Power Pop that brought us the likes of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. 

That’s why I’m a sucker for something like this effort from ex-Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis and boyfriend Johnathon Rice. From the jangly garage rock banter of Scissor Runner  through three and a half minutes of to and fro accusations and professional jealousy in My Pet Snakes the two voices trade lines, weave in and out of each other and generally sound like the album title is an accurate description of the contents.

Things slow down slightly for Switchblade, though the luscious harmonies stay right where they’ve been to date, and when the tempo lifts again Big Wave might sound like we’re talking California surf, but it’s actually about the state’s (and, I guess, the world’s) economic crisis (We’re spending what we haven’t made). Not the sort of topic you’d associate with surging choruses and chiming surf-derived guitar.

Following straight on, While Men Are Dreaming isn’t quite a lullaby, but resides in a nearby postcode and drops the tempo rather sharply, while Animal  lifts things back into bop along territory, and there’s a feel good singalong feel to Just Like Zeus and New Yorker Cartoon (not, you’d have thought, a topic that’d fit in with the Jenny & Johnny generation).

From there, i’s more or less a case of keeping things going along the same lines. Straight Edge of the Blade bops along nicely, the tempo drops for Slavedriver though the elements that have been on display throughout turn up again.

Things kick up nicely for Committed, and while you might hesitate before affitming your allegiance For God and for Country / For Michael Jackson’s Monkey it’s a catchy end to an album that contains its share of wisecracks and lyrical quirks. It’s largely upbeat, casts a backward glance towards folk-rock and California pop and definitely lives up to the title.

It’s not all sweetness and light when you dig under the sunny and exuberant surface, but as an exercise in retro lo-fi pop, it works very nicely.

© Ian Hughes 2012