Johnny Society

Coming to Get You

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If there were justice in the recording industry -- stop giggling -- Coming to Get You would be Johnny Society's breakthrough album. But then the same could have been said and written about Clairvoyance and Life Behind the 21st Century Wall before it, and saying it didn't necessarily make it so. The New York City trio, simply put, is one of the most phenomenally talented rock & roll bands in the world. Yes, it's a big world out there. And, sure, it's a subjective claim to make. But there's plenty of available evidence to support the contention. The breadth of Johnny Society's rambunctious brilliance has been demonstrated in increasing portions with each new album. This impressive fifth effort does nothing to alter that arc in the least. The group really does have it all: Musical ambition of this scope dwarfs most bands, and first-rate songwriting, at once loopily off-kilter and accessible, doesn't hurt either. And three virtuoso instrumentalists who can make those songs do whatever they want them to -- deliver calls-to-arms ("Don't Talk Me Down," "Reach Me"), pep talks ("What Breaks in You Might Break You Through"), or drunken serenades ("Marilene"), prowl through fantastic metallic nightscapes ("The Witch's Plea," "High Wall"), resurrect voodoo demons from dead swamps (the title track), or raise you up to the rooftop of stars (the anthemic, soul-filling "Find a Light," featuring the keyboard genius of Garth Hudson). It's no wonder they have the admiration of so many fellow musicians. The only thing that makes this album a slightly less obliging work than the previous Life Behind the 21st Century Wall is its vaguely pinched atmosphere. The earlier work was so openhearted, all-consuming; it was contagiously overjoyed. It cast its net in every direction, and it seemed to sweep the whole world into its sound. Coming to Get You, too, aggressively swallows and digests everything in its purview, but the field is narrower here. There is something more inward-looking, even claustrophobic, particularly in the lyrics. The album feels like a coalescence, a reevaluation, and a repositioning. But it still dazzles at every step. Johnny Society may be "coming to get you" as per the title, but a band of this caliber should at least be able to expect more listeners to meet them halfway.

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