Thursday, November 26, 2015

Unremarkable Ditties: Nothin' Matters And What If It Did

The Good: Some decent lyrics, Vocals aren't bad
The Bad: SHORT, Musically unimaginative, Lack of a hook
The Basics: Very much a young album, John Mellencamp's Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is understandably one he has distanced himself from!

John Mellancamp was my October Artist Of The Month and given how fast the year is going and how I have not chosen a subsequent Artist Of The Month, I've decided to continue my immersion in the works of John Mellencamp through the end of the year! Little makes me instantly regret that decision like the next Mellancamp album in my docket: Nothin' Matters And What If It Did. Nothin' Matters And What If It Did was one of John Mellancamp's earliest albums and it is one that is distinctive only in the lack of any worthwhile songs outside the two songs that made it to the radio. Forgettable and monotonous, Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is the work of a young artist making pop ditties that lack his distinctive sound, energy or enthusiasm in their presentation.

It did not surprise me to read an article in which John Mellencamp, years later, distanced himself from Nothin' Matters And What If It Did. Nothin' Matters And What If It Did lacks deep social commentary that is present on most John Mellencamp albums and Mellencamp challenges himself in no noticeable ways on the album.

With only eleven songs (12 on the 2005 c.d. reissue) clocking out at 35:59, Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is short and two of the songs - "Cry Baby" and "Peppermint Twist" are barely songs - they are more like vocal warm-up exercises/thrashing on instruments. That said, what appears on Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is very much the work of John Mellencamp as he was at the start of his career - though interviews seem to indicate that the record company exerted a lot of creative control over the whole venture. Nevertheless, Mellencamp wrote and composed all of the songs, save the album's opener "Hot Night In A Cold Town." Mellencamp provides all of the primary vocals and plays guitar on Nothin' Matters And What If It Did, but he was not involved in producing the album.

Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is dominated on the instrumental front by pianos. While the guitar, bass and drums that are more commonly associated with John Mellencamp are present, the piano is the dominant instrument on most of the songs, which gives all of the songs a lighter, more up-beat overall sound.

Vocally, John Mellencamp plays very comfortably in his youthful voice's range on Nothin' Matters And What If It Did. Mellencamp sings all of the lyrics clearly enough, but this is not an album where he holds notes particularly long or tests the limits of his voice at at register. He is comfortable with presenting cool, crisp vocals on the album and he delivers that pretty consistently.

On Nothin' Matters And What If It Did John Mellencamp sings mostly about relationships. His lyrics are mildly poetic, but do not evoke as strong of images as those from his later works. Indeed, it is a young man who wrote "Make me feel like I wanna feel / Baby tear this pain from my heart / Make me feel like I wanna feel / Make me feel like I did in the start / Maybe it's a change of plan / Now that your dreams have left me behind / Or is it another man / Who didn't care that you were mine" ("Make Me Feel"), not a seasoned veteran of love and love lost.

Still, Mellencamp tries to communicate on songs like "Don't Misunderstand Me." With lyrics like "I bring you renegade stories / And you tell me I'm crazy and wild / You say that I lack maturity / Stop actin' like a child / But you know I am a liar / And my promises only get in my way / You feel so good, when you're in my arms / Ain't there one right thing I can say / To make you want to stay" ("Don't Misunderstand Me"), Mellencamp hints at the emotional honesty that helped make most of his lyrics truly resonate with listeners.

The closest that John Mellencamp comes to a musical storysong on Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is "Wild Angel." Mellencamp singing "Cabin fever nearly drove us insane / When the snow fell on us last December / Look at me girl, I don't feel the same / Now those days they've all gone together" ("Wild Angel") is a stark contrast to the ridiculous amount of repetition of lines on the songs that surround it - "Cry Baby," "Peppermint Twist," and "Cheap Shot." Mellencamp abandons his early Folk influences on Nothin' Matters And What If It Did.

Nothin' Matters And What If It Did is utterly forgettable outside the two radio-played tracks "This Time" and "Ain't Even Done With The Night." It's unsurprising that no other songs from this album appear on the many compilations Mellencamp has released over the years.

For other works by John Mellencamp, please check out my reviews of:
Chestnut Street Incident
A Biograpghy
American Fool
Words And Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits


For a comprehensive list of the albums and singles I have reviewed, please check out my Music Review Index Pagefor an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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