Music Reviews

Calvin Johnson

What Was Me


Calvin Johnson is a legend within the indie rock community; he helped start the Sub Pop fanzine (which then turned into one of the largest indie labels in history), he founded K Records and has run it for nearly 20 years, and he began the hugely influential Beat Happening, a band hailed by many (Kurt Cobain, for one) as one of the greatest indie outfits of all time. With that said, What Was Me is an album of downtrodden personal tunes, coming from a man who loves music, and has devoted his life to it.

The majority of the songs on What Was Me consist of just Calvin and his guitar; his voice is rather low, reminding me of a cross between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. The pace of most of the tunes is slow and tired, with the lyrical content about relationships and looking back. He does have a couple of guests on the album, as well, including labelmates Mirah on “Ode to St. Valentine” and Beth Ditto on “Lightnin’ Rod For Jesus.”

As a whole, the album is long, worn out, and very dusty. The songs are extremely heavy, and the weight of songs like “Can We Kiss?” and “Warm Days” is so immense that I considered drinking myself into a stupor and hopping on a pony and riding into the high plains. Wait until you’re really sad or depressed to give What Was Me a try; you’ll probably enjoy it.

K Records:

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