Jim Johnston - Three Dimensional Living - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jim Johnston - Three Dimensional Living

by Kevin Orton Rating:7 Release Date:
Jim Johnston - Three Dimensional Living
Jim Johnston - Three Dimensional Living

If someone locked a Peter Murphy fan and a Cabaret Voltaire fan in a room with nothing but a synthesizer and a dream, it might sound like Jim Johnston’s ironically titled, Three Dimensional Living. As the opening track, ‘Anaesthetic Apathetic’ goes to show, the attitude here is anything but apathetic. Clearly, this guy has something to prove. In terms of the aforementioned Cabaret Voltaire, Johnston is stepping on their turf but not with the purpose of reinvention so much as carrying the torch.  As the title says, musically we’ve ‘Been Here Before’. A thousand times with a thousand like-minded bands. But if you love classic Cabaret Voltaire, you’re in for a feast.

While ‘Gamblers’ doesn’t’ risk much at the table, it's not without its allure. “Black, black, black”, Johnston snarls. Then adds the charming bon mot, “Wear black its true. I praise myself for never hitting you.” Johnston doing his best to sound mad, bad and dangerous to know. The same attitude is employed on ‘Chemical Time’ and throughout the album without much variation.

‘Avon Gorge’ occasionally touches on Bette Noire Bryan Ferry territory, but soon flies off on a synth noodling jam tangent that doesn't really go anywhere. Toss in some slashing, clinical and cold sounding 80's guitar. 

If one is hoping for some compassionate musings on the loss of a good friend, ‘Andrew’s Suicide’ is not that song. Johnston’s presentation here is more voyeuristic and critical. As for ‘Your 100th Rock Bottom’, it’s a gritty synth workout but doesn’t really lend any cohesion to the album. And more than anything reveals the real weakness at play here. The bells and whistles here are a touch over busy and over the top. No more is this evident than on the closing track, ‘How Can I Impress’.

If the point is to be ironic by being so dated musically, the album succeeds on that front. But it also comes with fair amount of pretension. In terms of the songs and vocals, there's talent here. It’s just that it’s all been encased in glass and overly polished. One can look but not quite touch. This is a very brittle sounding record without much warmth. And perhaps, that’s intentional. But it tends to overwhelm the material. The results are harsh, angular and overly-compressed. More two dimensional, than three. Regardless, it's obvious Johnston has drive and vision and is working within a certain niche and aesthetic. Only time will tell whether he will refine or reach beyond it.

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