American Fool (1982)


 
1. Hurts So Good 2. Jack and Diane 3. Hand To Hold Onto 4. Danger List 5. Can You Take It 6. Thundering Hearts 7. China Girl 8. Close Enough 9. Weakest Moments 10.American Fool

 

This was one of those too-rare moments when an artist seemed to break out and make it big exactly when they should have. John Mellencamp (i.e. "Cougar") all of the sudden became a household name when this album shot all the way up to number one and also had two number one singles as well. It was well deserved since this was, at the time, his best album by far of his somewhat strange, muddled career.

This album rocks hard and it rocks simple. Effects are very minimal. Strong guitar riffs, heavy thudding drums and an impassioned singing voice are pretty much all that are featured here, yet the music is so strong that it becomes a powerful asset. Consider the two songs that everyone knows, Hurts So Good and Jack and Diane. If you've heard, and enjoy these songs, you're guaranteed to love everything else on the album. The whole album follows the same basic formula. No ballads, no synthesizers, nothing "special" to enhance the album. You would think that the album might sound redundant or tiresome based on this fact, yet all of the songs are so fresh and enjoyable, that the "sameness" is actually an asset. You can hear a song from this album for the first time all these years later and immediately guess the album for which it was recorded.

Don't listen to the older, "wiser" Mellencamp bitch about his early work. I recently read where he stated there were only "two or three good songs" on this album. No, John, the whole album is damn near incredible. Even a song with a title China Girl manages to sound distinctly Asian without a barrage of Far East instruments. This could also be seen as a "transition" album for him. He hadn't yet become overtly political, but he did seem to have matured in his lyric writing to where he doesn't sound like a pissed-off teenager that dropped out of school in the tenth grade. This is truly one of the best 35 minutes of rock and roll you'll experience.

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