John Wesley Coleman III
Greatest Hits (Super Secret Records)
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Jan. 29, 2016
The haphazard sketch of a cowboy riding a bull – or perhaps the pilgrim mounting a Great Dane – amongst the scribbled liner notes of John Wesley Coleman's facetiously titled Greatest Hits betrays his musical style: doodler. That uncanny knack for homey imperfection results in songs sans stress or pretense, and explains why the charismatic garage bard remains one of Austin's purest songwriters. The Golden Boys' singer/guitarist arrives in a blue suit clashing preposterously with his shaggy hair on this 10th solo outing, which welcomes with "Tea and Sandwiches," a weird, woozy pop single wherein his warped vocals hover over Geena Spigarelli's percolating bass and Julia Hungerford's panting drums. Coleman's first post-fatherhood LP thus settles quickly into domestic bliss with touching astral-drone lullaby "Sleepyhead" and the romantic "Portlandia," comparing one couple's love to a French novel. The Texan's guitar pop jukebox boasts a proud country bent, most prominently Wil Cope's plaintive, steel-guitar-imbued "Falling out of Love," in which Coleman sounds like a grunge Gram Parsons, yowling, "If it ain't tragic baby, how can it be true?" Another rootsy climax arrives via Nick Allison co-write "Television," boogying like Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones. In context of his voluminous solo career, Greatest Hits finds Coleman with a tighter grip on reality than Nightmare on Silly Street, moving beyond the party rock cliches of Trans Am Summer Blues, with no whiff of garage punk à la Last Donkey Show. These Greatest Hits find Austin's "trash poet" at his most heartfelt.