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No Better Than This
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This is not an album that will ship a million records, but it is ripe for an audience looking for hearty Americana.
As time soldiers on so too does Mellencamp's persona. Like his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, he has become something of a retrospective malcontent with his 60s creeping up on him. He still harbors the restless spirit of a much younger man, calling out for social justice and pondering life's big questions straightforwardly.
In the heartbreaking, matter-of-fact "The West End," for instance, he proves himself a first-rate poet as he magnifies the vicious circle - the "broken promises" - that keep the oppressed immobile in contemporary society.
"For my whole life I've been down in the West End/It sure has changed here since I was a kid/It's worse now - look what progress did/Someone lined the packers out - I know who that is."
He also ponders the possibility of a better existence beyond mortal life on "A Graceful Fall" with a cynical eye:
"'Cause I'm sick of life, yeah, it's easy to do/When everything is so hard has been handed to you/Yeah I'm sick of life, it's been lost, it's been found/I will see you in the next world if there is really one."
The subject matter is not always harrowingly heavy, of course.Read more ›
"No Better Than This" was recorded by John and T Bone during John's off days from a minor league baseball park tour he was doing with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Recorded in mono, T Bone and John used places like Sun Studios and The First African Baptist Church in Memphis, the first African Baptist church in North America dating back to before the Revolutionary War. Also used was room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas where Robert Johnson first recorded for Brunswick Records. "No Better Than This" is a live record with real musicians that feels real and sounds absolutely terrific. With "Freedom Road" and "Life, Death, Love and Freedom", it marks the high point of an American folk rock trilogy that shows John Mellencamp hasn't become a nostalgia act. Indeed, he may just be hitting his creative stride. An amazing piece of work.
NO BETTER THAN THIS is something of a breather, though not a passive one. Its lyrics are just as important and beautiful, but they are accompanied by a country/folk backbone that makes even the most downtrodden lyric ("I'm sick of life 'cause it's lost its form/I'll see you in the next world if there is really one") almost pleasant to listen to. Not that everything here is tears and frowns; "Save some time to dream/Because your dream might save us all," he croons in the opening number, and elsewhere (the title track, for instance) he seems relaxed and contended.
It's a false contentment, of course; even at his happiest, Mellencamp can't help but question the world around him. "Gee, it's a clumsy old world," he sings in the final track (and concludes with a wry chuckle); Mellencamp, like most of the great singer/songwriters before him, is in love with that clumsiness, with the imperfection of human nature. NO BETTER THAN THIS is a marvelous album; it's fun, it's catchy, and it's meaningful. Will it top the charts? No. But Mellencamp has more important things on his mind than record sales.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
John Mellencamp at his best....it really doesn't get better than this! I love the old mono sound, so real and authentic. I don't think he could ever put out a bad song. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Southern Breezes
I love Mellencamp and have all of his albums. Unfortunately I do not care for this album, however, I found my all time favorite Mellencamp song on this album, "No One Cares... Read morePublished 6 months ago by RANDALL W PRIEST
I think this is his best album. I really had no idea what to expect when I put this on the first time but I was so into it when in moments I had forgot who I was listening to. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Thingfish33
The songs are excellent. However, it was recorded on vintage equipment, which is, to say the least, somewhat lacking in tonal quality. Read morePublished 13 months ago by D. Hahn
Grew up listening to John Mellencamp. His music got me through a difficult childhood. This album is excellent.Published 13 months ago by Fern Oldham
For me this was a little bit different John Mellencamp. It was an intyeresting album.Published 15 months ago by Grace Hill
Great follow up to L,D,L and H. Recorded in low-fi and adds to aura of this album. Great lyrics.Published 16 months ago by Kevin Buselmeier