John Vehadija 2017
Lucid and entertaining, yet hardly transcendental trip into alternative existence.
Singer-songwriter John Vehadija plays a dangerous game by pretending he’s not as well-versed in art-rock as one may assume, and the Canadian’s debut record can’t fail at surprising the genre lovers – more often than not, not in a nice way. It’s all a matter of expectation, though, but the listeners are warned from the beginning. “New Lightspace Age” is a very telling, and quite possibly tongue-in-cheek, title for the album’s opener that takes progressive idiom back, in retrograde fashion, to its psychedelic origins, with helium-like levity to vocals and arrangements. Still, even devoid of important-sounding passages, these songs are still immaculately played, albeit they lack both naiveté and seriousness.
Whatever concept is lurking in the Eterniverse, as promised by Ed Unitsky’s epic artwork, is scaled down to the “déjà vu” familiarity of the overall flow whose saving grace are Wakeman-esque waves – and there is a Wakeman behind it, Oliver – which keep pieces such as “Stay Strong With Me” from outstaying the tunes’ welcome. Thankfully, tracks like “Dream Again” have a more complex weave, allowing instrumental texture move closer to the fore and place genuine emotions where humorous slant of Vehadija’s delivery has lain earlier, with “Go Amplify The Feeling” following the Dylan route.
As a result, another dimension opens for melodic focus to get sharpened in “They Fit You In” – thanks to Eric Gillette’s guitar riff and six-string harmonies wrapped around Billy Sherwood’s bass rumble – while “Place Of Power” appears alluringly delicate in its tempered grandiosity. But despite the reggae-tinged “Enjoy The Now” trying to bring things to a satisfying finale, the album doesn’t arrive at closure: it’s all too momentary, not eternal.