Josh Joplin Group
The Future That Was
“I sound like Michael Stipe / And I dream like Carl Jung,” sings Josh Joplin on “Happy At Last,” an exuberant but bittersweet track from his second album The Future That Was. While I can’t attest to the latter, any music writer worth his salt is quick to point out the vocal resemblance to the R.E.M. frontman. But this record has more hooks than Athens’ finest have come up with on their last three records combined.
The record gets off to a fine start with a terrific tune that might appeal to fans of Coldplay as well. “If wisdom comes with age then I haven’t got a clue / What gets into me must be you,” Joplin sings. The topical, deeply sarcastic “Wonderful Ones” is all big crunchy, modern rock radio guitar chords leavened by lots of sweet la-la-la vocals. Think Cake or Weezer with a bit more brains. “We shoot to last / We don’t ask why / Everybody loves Americans,” he sings.
The band follows that up with the punkier “It’s Only Entertainment” which features a shout-along chorus and Joplin singing about one character: “He’s Atticus Finch / He’s everybody’s mensch.”
Contrast that with the delicate acoustic slice of life “Dishes.” A waitress quits her job at a restaurant as a dishwasher looks on. “My apron is a testament to madness,” Joplin sings before the tune gives way to a pretty instrumental coda with piano and trumpet. This is remarkable stuff.
“(I Am Not the Only) Cowboy” is a good first single, with Joplin’s engaging talk-rapped vocals and a string section used to good effect. “Trampoline” is appropriately bouncy and springy. And on the record’s title track, which features some nice guitar work, Joplin ponders the idea of Jesus coming back as a talk show host.
The best track here may be “Siddhartha’s Of Suburbia,” which sounds like Elvis Costello and the Attractions circa Armed Forces or Imperial Bedroom with plenty of Steve Nieve-style dramatic piano chord runs. Here Joplin laments the death of rock and roll: “The future is a stereo that eats your favorite tapes / The soundtrack to your youth that cannot be replaced / So hold onto every song before they disappear / Your future’s almost here.”
But with a few more records like The Future That Was, the future looks very bright indeed for The Josh Joplin Group.