Volume 93, Issue x

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Costner at home on field

Death in Vegas turns up a disappointing success

Miguel innovates classic Meringue

An idiot's guide to the idiot box

John Popper snaps and crackles

John Popper snaps and crackles

John Popper
A&M Records

With their solid guitar riffs and exhausting harmonica solos, Blues Traveller used to be easily mistaken for any other touring blues band in existence. That is until the odd, warbling lyrics of lead singer John Popper came into the musical fray.

Popper's love for combining cliché phrases and eccentric topics in his lyrics with a baritone which knows no boundaries is what has garnered Blues Traveller hits "Run Around" and "Hook" their enormous successes. Popper has brought his truly memorable talents along on his first solo effort Zygote, an uncompromising album straight from the mind of the singer/songwriter.

Listed in the album's credits for lead guitars, harmonicas, flutes, squeaks, whistles and iron-fisted will, Popper wrote and sang virtually all the material, performed many of the instruments and produced every track. With his Blues Traveler bandmates curiously absent, Popper chose Dave Matthews' drummer Carter Beauford and an unknown band named Cycomotogoat to provide minimal backup. As he sings on "His Own Ideas," Popper seems intent on blaring his own messages without the aid of his safety net bandmates.

But, one may ask, is a little narcissism truly a bad thing? Not if the perpetrator is an off-the-wall vocalist with a unabashed talent and the will to wield it.

Zygote's opening track, "Miserable Bastard," boasts a guitar riff which worms it's way far into your skull. Throw in the album's best chorus, "I use love like fuel/The pain it drives my engine" and the result is a very infectious track.

Zygote's remaining songs abide by Popper's fool proof hook formula, despite some of the random titles and lyrics, such as "Growing In Dirt" with its dime store philosophies cloaked in farming metaphors.

It must be said – Zygote is definitely weird as hell. However, it's a good kind of weird, much like standing in line to ride the Zipper at the Western Fair after downing two hot dogs and an elephant ear pastry – you know something is about to happen, but you're not sure what. But your stomach is in a tizzy and excitement and nervousness are jockeying for top position.

While Zygote is far from perfect, at its conclusion, one still feels lucky someone has bottled this small bit of lightning and even luckier they got a chance to feel its effect.

–Luke Rundle

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