John Mellencamp: Life Death Love and Freedom

Music  |  Reviews
Text
John Mellencamp: <em>Life Death Love and Freedom</em>
Rock icon gets candid and melancholic on latest


John Mellencamp’s blue-collar rock 'n' roll takes a somber turn on Life Death Love and Freedom, his first album since 2007’s Freedom Road. What a difference one year can make. Tackling some of the same subjects that fueled Freedom Road’s rousing sound, the fifty-six-year-old Mellencamp now pitches his tent closer to home, writing inward-looking songs that reflect his country’s troubles. “It seems like once upon a time ago,” he sings on the opening track, “I was where I was supposed to be.” The album proceeds accordingly, with Mellencamp singing quiet, rusty-throated declarations like “I know many, many people, but I ain’t got no friends” and “All I got left is a head full of memories and a thought of my upcoming death.”

Perhaps this melancholy seems a bit forced, given the patriotic Chevrolet commercials that helped Mellencamp revisit the Billboard singles charts in late 2006. Yet the songwriter still sounds convincing, while producer T-Bone Burnett churns up an appropriately sparse mix of acoustic guitars, organ and upright bass. Only the neo-rockabilly shuffle of “My Sweet Love” offers up any sort of optimism, and its follow-up track—the ominous, swampy “If I Die Sudden”—quickly squashes those cheery feelings.


Classic songs like “Pink Houses” and “Jack and Diane” once married Mellencamp’s cynical lyrics with big, radio-ready hooks, but Life Death Love and Freedom takes a harsher approach to middle-aged Midwestern life. Blunt and stubbornly engaging, it may be Mellencamp’s most candid effort in years.

Sign up for the Paste newsletter Get our daily summary of the day's top articles and new items. Sign Up Thank you! Your email address has been added to our list. You will begin receiving our newsletter within 48 hours.

Paste Magazine example 1 Paste Magazine example 2 Paste Magazine example 3