John Mayer

Inside Wants Out

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After John Mayer hooked up with producer John Alagia (who had previously worked with Dave Matthews) to record Room for Squares, a lot of people thought of him as a second Matthews. But taking a listen to Mayer's first relase, Inside Wants Out, half of which turned up in re-recorded form on Room for Squares, is liable to remind the listener more of an earlier antecedent, 1970s folk-jazz performer Michael Franks of "Popsicle Toes" fame. Like Franks, Mayer has a wheezy, phlegmatic tenor -- and though the arrangements focus on his acoustic guitar, even when a few other instruments are brought in, he doesn't restrict himself to folk chords, instead throwing in some jazzy elements. His material is better when he cuts through the affectations, however. The best songs, neither of which were repeated on Room for Squares, are "Love Soon" and "Comfortable." In the latter, he sings to a former flame about his current girlfriend, illuminating how different one love interest can be from another. "Life of the party, and she swears that she's arty," he notes of the new girl, "but you could distinguish Miles from Coltrane," which is clearly more of an attribute for him. The attention paid to detail in his lyrics (as well as an ear for a well-turned phrase, such as his observation that the new girl "poses for pictures that aren't being taken") marks Mayer as an original songwriter, if sometimes a precious one. [For the 2002 reissue that appeared Columbia Records, Vlado Miller re-sequenced this EP, placing the four songs that also appeared on Room for Squares up front. But new fans should listen to the rest of the disc as well, since they may hear Mayer in a more direct and honest way.]

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