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Johan | Pergola (Excelsior)
In the five years since their acclaimed eponymous debut, Johan have halved their full-time personnel and streamlined their hook-laden brand of radio-ready pop. From the buoyant chorus of opener Tumble and Fall, there is no hidden agenda behind the music of Jacob de Greeuw and Jim Kwakman. Here, augmented by a handful of guests, they wear their influences on their sleeves, sometimes a little too brazenly. The title track is the chart-topping single REM have been seeking, only sung by Neil Finn, and Tomorrow would have been Crowded House's first number one. So, added to Day Is Done ?? with its Billy Joel meets Travis recipe for success - Johan have delivered three number one singles from the first five tracks on their second album. So far, worth the five-year wait. Whilst maybe not what the kids want I Feel Fine sounds like an outtake from the debut, piling on the hooks and guitars like it's the end of the world as we know it ?? two minutes of exuberance sounding like it was thrown together in three, the way pop music should. Paper Planes borders on boy-band sentimentality, such is the risk of slowing this stuff down, but as with the classic scarf-waving fare, How Does It Feel, this should only add to the inevitable stadium gig experience. Time and Time Again boasts another huge chorus and closer Here takes on almost Queen like proportions such is its epic sweep. Played loud Pergola is classic rock fare, with the credentials to out-perform The Man Who or Parachutes at cash registers across the land (and if they were British there's a good chance they would). Here, on planet Introvert, such shameless raiding of the pop closet raises a sceptical eyebrow. It's not that we deny the lure of the hook, far from it. On a good day we've been known to sing along.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001