Eagle Johnson “The Last Gun” (LP)

With the opening lyrics “Take me home, cook me in the frypan / Season me good, tell me I’m your man / Don’t just taste me,” it should be obvious from the jump that eccentricities are a big part of the new solo album from the mind of Eagle Johnson, The Last Gun. What isn’t initially made clear to us in the record’s title track and foundational single is just how endearing a substance these eclectic compositional whims will yield, from this juggernaut of an indie pop/rock single to the more hesitant stomp of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” and swinging “Better Comin’ Days.”

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The refined musicianship of a mid-career Beatles record is all over the material in The Last Gun, but it’s coupled with such a rejectionist point of view when it comes to the flagrant simplicities of modern pop that one can’t help but wonder what strange – and wholly melodic – treasure waits around the next corner. My gut told me I was in for something off-center in this highly-anticipated new album, but to say I was taken aback by the abstract charisma in this piece wouldn’t be doing my experience justice.

A freeform “Home” trips into the synthetic orchestral intermission in “Interlude #1” seamlessly, while the crunch of “Hey Leona” ascends from the silence much in the same style the title cut did at the start of the tracklist. To quite truthful, I don’t think it matters how Johnson starts up these songs; acoustic and electric the same, they all evolve into a beastly shape of some sort by the time we hit the thirty-second mark in any given track.

“One Sun” is the more multilayered of the two singles released from The Last Gun (the other being the previously noted namesake song), and its signature harmony could find a most comfortable place anywhere on college radio this summer. The same could probably be said for the surprisingly agile “Joey Got a New Job” were it not fitted as the perfect deep cut in this LP, which from one end to the other has the feel of an antique alternative rock effort and not that of a scattered indie experiment.

“Natural Women” gets bluesy and blunt inside of two minutes, and despite “We Are Africa” running a mere twenty seconds longer, the latter track sounds almost twice and big and brawny as the former does. The Last Gun concludes with an almost ghostly ballad in “Divided Hour” that fades ever so softly into the darkness through which Johnson came bursting out ten tracks prior, but when it’s over the ache of the musicality is topped-off sets in like a fast-acting pot brownie. Eagle Johnson doesn’t simply give us the unfiltered look at his artistry we’ve been craving here but unfolds layer after layer of himself all in the name of better understanding his aesthetics as they stand without Clean Machine behind him. I found The Last Gun to be a record worthy of lusting after, and if you’re an American indie rock buff you’ll probably feel the same.

Mark Druery