I sat on writing this piece for a little while for fear of ninebullets starting to look too much like a Mellencamp fan site, with this being put out so close to the release of his awesome box set, but I’ve sat long enough….let’s talk about the new Mellencamp album.
No Better Than This is the proper followup to Life, Death, Love & Freedom. I’m not gonna bother with the defending of the present Mellencamp or get too heavily into his current sound, since I think I’ve done a more than adequate job of both in the past; here and here. No Better Than This continues down the same thematic paths of troubled times and accepted mortality that Life, Death, Love & Freedom explored, but does it in a decidedly more stripped-down fashion.
The tracks for No Better Than This were written over the course of 13 days and were recorded mono on reel to reel tapes from the 1950’s. Many of the tracks were recorded in one take live, with the band playing huddled around a single 1940’s microphone sitting in the middle of a church. The result is a very lo-fi recording that may seem “muddy” to those that are used to pristine digital recordings mastered to the edge of clipping, while coming off beautiful and haunting to others.
In the end it is of the opinion of this particular blogger that No Better Than This could be the kingpin in this late-life, post-major label renaissance that Mr. Mellencamp is currently crafting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, check your preconceptions at the door and check out the last few albums, they’re all Essential Listening and No Better Than This is as good a place as any to start.