International Society of Music Snobs: No Better Than This Review By Tim Murrah

The idea of John Mellancamp putting out an ‘American’ album is nothing new. He is one of the few that can easily be seen as synonymous with American pride. Thank God for that. It is always reassuring to know these guys are always out there. They may pass in and out of fashion, but they stay true to their beliefs. However, in a sense, this is an American album in it’s heart and simplicity.

If you listen to this record, it is like re-affirmations. It is almost like your wise old grandad telling you tried and true advice. In fact, Mellencamp even calls himself an ‘old guy’. In the opening tune the ‘old guy’ simply says “Save some time to dream…” Such a valuable statement, and often overlooked by most of us. The record is full of admission and observations. This is not a party record. This is a simple record and a truthful record.

The most striking thing about the record is its sound. This record has a fantastic sound. It is warm and true. It is an intimate record, and that may be the main reason why it sounds so appealing. The familiarity may also lie in the fact it has the touch of T-Bone Burnett (anyone remember the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss record?) However, the twist on this is that this album was actually recorded out on the road. John and T-Bone decided to take it out and make some magic in some magical places, Like room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. Robert Johnson once recorded in this very room. A few bits recorded in Sun studios and then a few more bits recorded in the First baptist Church of Savannah. In fact, it was here that John was actually baptized during the recording!

It sounds like it is from the south. It sounds like cold beer on hot nights. It sounds like small town neighbors. It sounds weathered and sometimes weary. Just like being on the open road, it allows for time to reflect. This resounds throughout the whole album. “Life is short, even in its longest days” he says in ‘Longest Days’.

It is also worth noting the simplicity in which it was recorded, which undoubtedly lends to its uniqueness. An old tape recorder, one mic and three men. It’s simplicity is what rings so true. No gimmicks, no digitizing, no drum machines or effects. This is just a man and his music. This has blood and soul. This is what music was, before it was ruined and simply served up as background to marketing.

‘No Better Than This’ is a record to be listened to. In the process, you will undoubtedly feel it. What makes this stand out so is that in this day of ringtones and compressed pleasures, you hear something that has room and depth and its very simplicity makes it stand out like a beacon amongst all the noise. Maybe you don’t want to hear about getting hit in the head with a frying pan, or “…having five kids like our grandparents did”, but mark my words, you will not hear another record that sounds like this one this year.

Get some wisdom and pointers. Give it a listen.