Life, Death, Love and Freedom
John Mellencamp has never been a cheery sort. Even his most rousing rock n’ roll anthems include moments of doubt, anger and/or regret. The Buddy Holly rumble of “My Sweet Love” fulfills the “Life” and “Love” aspects of the title, providing the album with its one moment of release, while the acoustic brooding of “Longest Days,” the bluesy-shuffles of “If I Die Sudden” and “Don’t Need This Body,” and the down-home back porch swoon of “A Brand New Song” handle the “death” angle with resigned finality. As for “freedom,” Mellencamp sees it as either something in short supply or when available as something to accompany you into the temple of doom (“Troubled Land”). This is one bleak album, delivered in Mellencamp’s bluesiest, most Dylanesque timbre with acoustic finger-picked guitar hitting the rustic, Americana trail (“Young Without Lovers”) and a backing band just one step out from the barroom, the nightclub organ, in particular, sounding like a night of sin slowly unraveling.