After a 3 year hiatus from releasing a studio album, John Mayer returns with his 4th major label release Battle Studies in hand and does not disappoint his eagerly awaiting fanbase. A self described CD that “you put on before you go to sleep”, Battle Studies is a sampler plate pulling references from some of classic rock’s biggest names. Heartbreak Warefare opens the album with the mid temp feel of an early 90’s U2 song. This battle driven song itroduces the theme of the following 10 tracks with lyrics like “I don’t care if e don’t sleep at all tonight/ let’s just fix this whole thing now/ I swear to God we’re gonna get it right/ if you lay your weapon down”. Battle Studies continues to mimic the ups and downs of the final stages of a relationship. The lyrics in All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye ask “Why you want to break my heart again?/ Why am I going to let you try?” The Fleetwood Mac style Half of My Heart pulls the strumming patterns of Lindsey Buckingham and incorporates Taylor Swift’s vocals into the radio friendly chorus harmonies.
Mayer subtly suggests the invasion of his privacy with the controversial first single Who Says; which would sit perfectly around a campfire between Willie Nelson and a Bob Dylan song. According to Mayer, the repeated line “Who says I can’t get stoned” refrains from the recreational drug use and is used as a tool to point out how people’s opinions can be overbearing when trying to make the correct decision.
Battle Studies shows higher peeks of energy with songs like Perfectly Lonely and Crossroads, a cover of a Robert Johnson song that was made famous by Eric Clapton’s legendary band “Cream”. Although it is a nice break from the heart torn chorus lines, Crossroads hides in the middle of the album as an excuse for Mayer to flex his knowledge of the fret board.
Mayer truly taps his creative nerve with the album’s hidden gem Assassin. Backed by an unusual pattern of bells, Steve Jordan channels the drum build up of Peter Gabriel classic while Pino Palladino lays a restless and seemingly sporadic bass line. The quiet and mostly absent guitar breaks through with Stevie Ray Vaughan like riffs providing a much needed climax to the album.
With other noteworthy songs appearing on the album like Friends, Lovers or Nothing and Edge of Desire, Mayer provides another solid album worthy of adding additional gramophone statues to his already impressive collection of 7.