There is a certain ramshackle charm to Better Than This, one that eschews slick production and the gloss and gimmickry of the modern music industry, and instead glances back to the grunge infused troubadours of the early nineties. And there is a lot to be said for the “just do it” attitude, for musicians who remember that it is the song that counts not the studio embellishment, the video allure, the fabricated packaging.
Better Than This is a strange hybrid of Seattle belligerence and coffee shop busker ethic, a raw, over-driven guitar holding down the rhythm whilst some wonderfully world weary vocals muse on the state of life. Skittering percussion wanders in and out of the track but essentially this is the sound of a guy with a guitar taking stock of things.
There is a hypnotic quality to the track’s stoner charms but the simplicity of the music makes me wonder if this isn’t an unnecessary compromise. Render the song down to a more deftly picked acoustic guitar and the sonic qualities would perhaps be better revealed, rack things up to a full band sound and you could really make an impact. I can already hear the bass line and the beat, the additional guitar detail and the lead breaks in my head.
I suspect this latter route is on the cards for Justin and this solo, electric format is a stepping stone to that bigger sound. As a work in progress, a calling card, a showcase indicating where things might go next it does the job perfectly and I look forward to a fuller, more dynamic, expressive and expansive sound somewhere down the line. For now its a perfectly fine indication of a sonic work in progress and an artist building up to bigger things. It’s all part of the necessary learning curve after all.