In the last few years, John Mayer has been living a PR nightmare. A string of high profile breakups (Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Aniston) made the supposedly sensitive soft rock bro seem insensitive, and a disastrous set of interviews in 2010 prompted accusations of misogyny and racism. Now, those two years since the height of the criticism have given Mayer time to undergo a period of atonement, rebrand himself and get in touch with his feelings, man.
Enter sensitive throwback cowboy bro John Mayer, who, in the press accompanying his latest album "Born and Raised," now sports long hair, denim jackets, a collection of Neil Young records and a hefty dose of perspective. Or some perspective, at least. The narcissism and entitlement that underscored Mayer's offensive remarks still crop up in the conveniently self-serving absolution of lyrics like "Hard times have helped me see I'm a good man" on lead single "Shadow Days." But although the platitude-heavy songs often scan more movie soundtrack than truthful emotional breakthrough, there is the sense that this is a positive step for someone who has been sheltered by success for his entire adult life.
And while Mayer's voice isn't really suited for straying from the intimate blues croon of his past hits into the more upbeat country pieces here, the instrumentation mostly sounds great, tapping into the comfy Americana of '70s radio rock. There are certainly charming moments--"Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" and "A Face to Call Home" in particular--but they only come when Mayer's introspective album looks outward to someone more interesting than himself.
--Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributorCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times