In high school one of my best friends was named Matt. Matt, through the bequeathing of his older sister, Sarah, gained an Acura RSX when he turned 16. The RSX had everything: a sunroof, coal-black rims, leather interior and morphed into Speedy Gonzalez in the matter of seconds, a rowdy rat-trap the color of the Terminator’s face that, in the parking lot of our high school, was the envy of kids whose parents bought them BMWs and Audis for their sweet sixteens.
The RSX also had an awesome sound system, which Matt installed through the money he earned working as a youth soccer coach. We used to listen to a lot of music in that car. We blasted Three 6 Mafia’s “Most Dangerous Posse” when we ping-ponged along I-70 towards club soccer practice in Springfield, Ohio, and Third Eye Blind’s “Crystal Baller” on the way to parties. Often, though, Matt and I just listened to Jack Johnson’s “Taylor” off Johnson’s 2003 album, On And On.
The choice wasn’t necessarily surprising. Although I grew up on a complete diet of music (from U2 and Janet, courtesy of my mom, to A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West and Blackstar, courtesy of my dad’s significantly younger brother, Steve), Jack Johnson was that common musical denominator in suburban Columbus, Ohio. It was unanimously accepted as awesome, much like Sperry Top-Siders and North Face fleeces and Abercrombie & Fitch muscle polos because, well, none of those things deserved chastising among the kids I grew up with. And especially when you consider that Grantland featured a parody video a friend’s younger brother made for my high school’s morning news show in a post last year, you grok the idea of my peers.
I’m not particularly ashamed that I listened to “Taylor” on a loop. I like Jack Johnson. He’s alright. He’s not particularly charismatic, and in retrospect I can’t really rank his best album because they all sound exactly the f*cking same. Johnson’s like Jeff Tweedy if Jeff Tweedy never had mental health issues, wrote songs entirely for acoustic guitars and with his sons in mind and grew up in Hawaii instead of suburban St. Louis. Then again, that probably isn’t accurate, but whatever.
We were–and many of my friends still are–lax bros. And “Taylor” with its youth group alliteration (“Peter Patrick pitter patters on the window”), mellowness and general appeal was what it was: bourgeois campfire music. There’s probably no better descriptor of Jack Johnson than that. “Taylor” fits neatly alongside a Bud Light Lime ad or humming through a Bose iPod dock in a backyard during my halcyon summers. It’s not mind-expanding (but not necessarily mind-contracting) and still doesn’t work as getting-p*ssy music if a guy could play its opening chords after a few errant bong hits.
It’s background noise for the “One Tree Hill” set. That’s probably why I listen to so little Jack Johnson now. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore now that I’ve graduated college and live 560 miles east in New York, doing grown-up things. It’s a throw-back to AP classes, cornhole tournaments and getting high in metro parks when I had nothing better to do. I’m not embarrassed that I listened to it because it encapsulated some great times. But there are better–and, frankly, more exciting–things to listen to. Actually, I probably won’t continuously spin Jack again until I have to get my future, hypothetical asshole kids to sleep.
As for Matt’s RSX? His younger brother, Jack, drives it now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he listened to “Taylor” on his way to school this morning.