Personnel: John Krautner (vocals, guitar); Justin Walker (guitar); Ben Luckett (drums).
Recording information: Imaginary Jamaica Studios, Berkley, MI (2013).
Photographer: Greg Siemasz.
Arranger: John Krautner.
After years as a member of the Go and subsequently Conspiracy of Owls, it's not a surprise that John Krautner knows his way around a hooky garage pop tune. Working with longtime musical partner Bobby Harlow (who was also in both of those bands) on his overdue solo debut, Fun with Gum, Vol. 1, Krautner dishes out ten woozy, slightly goofy slices of garage-crafted bubblegum that's lighter that the Go's garage rock and less weird than the Owls' cosmic '70s rock. Krautner's easygoing charm gives the album a breezy feel that the Go never really achieved. While they sounded like they were working hard to nail down every riff, Krautner saunters through this album like a guy without a single care in the world. On groovy bubblegum tracks like "Music Is the Thing" and "Northwood," he comes off like Archie Andrews' slacker cousin; on the tougher songs that add some fuzz and grime to the mix ("I Know What's Right," "Lion Eyes"), he never breaks a sweat. Combined with the bedroom-loose, not-a-wasted-note production from Harlow, Fun with Gum, Vol. 1 sounds great and the songs don't let the side down. Catchier than an outbreak of the measles, everything sounds like lost bubblegum classics ("I Need Sugar"), jangling good-time '60s jammers ("Where Is Terry," "Good at the Bad Things"), AM radio staples that slipped through the cracks ("I Get a Kick" with its sweet mariachi horn break), or just great pop songs ("Love Just Ain't Strong Anymore") that feel like something you might have heard once or twice, loved, and forgot about. Nothing here is going to win any prizes for originality, but since when has that ever mattered in pop music? Instead of worrying about that, just take a page out of Krautner's laid-back style book and just hang loose. Let the happy little songs make you happy and rock out a little to the songs with some kick. Why not? It's all good, it's all fun, and nobody got hurt. Bring on Vol. 2! ~ Tim Sendra