ALBUM REVIEW: Hobo Johnson, The Revenge of Hobo Johnson
My first exposure to the music of Frank Lopes Jr., who goes by “Hobo Johnson”, was his 2019 Tiny Desk Concert for NPR. I have made a really concerted effort to avoid listening to his music, watching his interviews or just generally looking at his face since then. Why, you may ask? Where to start? Every moment of his live performance of “Peach Scone” just bothered me on such a visceral level. The way he dramatically shifts from laughing to acting sad to acting “crazy” and the faces he makes to go with them bother me. The basic stomp, stomp clap acoustic guitar instrumental and all the background vocals bother me. The lyrics, oh my fucking god, “Shhh....I love...these scones the diversity between the selection blueberry, pumpkin, it’s basically squash how are you going to make a scone out of freaking squash oh MAN!”, bother me the most. The loose character of “Hobo Johnson” is a “loser”, yes, but so are a lot of people that make great music. I’m sure that Thom Yorke or Beck were not the most popular kids at their respective grade schools, but they filtered their anxieties into classic tracks like “Creep” and “Loser”. The trick is to make being a loser sound effortlessly cool.
I’ll just take this from the top, my goal for this review is to wring out every bit of anything from this album so you guys don’t go and listen to it for yourselves. It has small moments of decency.. The opener “Anton LaVey '' copies the chorus of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles in vibe and “na na na”s and it doesn’t sound bad. The song itself is a different story. It’s about him tongue kissing and fucking Anton LaVey from The Church of Satanism while rapping things like “Mine says hello, hello, hello/Afterwards we eat Halal Halal Halal” and “with a belly full of loose meat/I ask him ‘what do you seek?’”. You see what I mean by viscerally cringe yet or no? Don’t worry I got more. “I want to see the World” is a 0/10, it’s that classic Bo Burnham or Lonely Island song structure where the first verse is like “I love the world! Yay everything is so fun and nice!” and then the song goes left and it’s like “The world is horribly fucked! Omg!”. It’s a song about how he wants to travel to different places on Earth, first he goes to Japan and eats fish, wait then he goes to New York City and he’s at WTC ground zero, uh oh! Well that took quite a turn that I definitely didn’t see coming! I don’t know which line of this song is worse, the one where he sums up hundreds of years of slavery and subsequent racist laws as an “unbelievable theft, occurred and we should never forget” or the one where wants “to go to Auschwitz”. This is written for reformed Cards Against Humanity players whose last act of protest was posting a black square on IG for #BLM.
“I want you Back” makes the very profound point that 2021 humans are empty vessels being pumped ads on the Internet. Any album or show or movie whose main point is “the world is fucked” or “I think I’m fucked” is an F off-top, always remember that. Using broad phrases like that, especially when they’re screamed or echoed by background vocalists, gives the listener a false sense that they are getting “straight up facts” when they’re really just getting straight up trash. “My therapist” continues this trend of virtue signalling to people who claim to be socialists when they haven’t volunteered or donated even once in their life. With some really over the top annoying screamed vocal inflections and bits, he talks about hypothetically buying a pizza place so that the workers can get paid fair wages. Then he daydreams about starting a soap company to donate to his community. It’s as if to say, “Wow, what a nice thought that is. Well, I guess I’ll just go back to not doing that.” There’s more of this type of shit later in the album, but I’m not done roasting this track by track so just be patient.
“Jordans house”, not much to say. We get the same basic ass acoustic guitar you’ve heard many times before. He’s going to Jordan's house, cool, 0/10. Next. “Prequel to Animal Farm” has the worst instance of call and response I’ve heard in quite a while, Hobo Johnson will say something like “the pig was born on the farm, the people there did him much harm”, and then we are treated to some really slow, sleepy background vocals. It’s like a metaphor for depression or society I guess, we’re all pigs working in a confined space and then being slaughtered when we are no longer of use. Cool, 0/10. “You want a baby” is the r/childfree anthem that we all definitely needed. Rather than just directly calling them “crotch spawn” or saying that Disney World should ban children, we get a pseudo-deep track about not passing negativity onto your children. “My genes make me struggle, why would I pass that onto you?” he asks, so true. The instrumental is the quietest and most boring on the entire record.
“Chemicals or depression?!...Na na na na na na”...Jesus Christ. Does he really think he can just juxtapose “really dark” lines with “Life Is Good” T-shirt sloganeering and just continue to make a career off of it? Is this really what the people are missing from mainstream hip-hop? So the second to last song is called “Song 9 (The Government’s Not Great)”, I hate this song so much. Again, just like the grand finale of a Bo Burnham concert, we have to get all the classic inside jokes from throughout the performance (Anton, Jordan, etc.) called back to. We get more virtue signalling toward minimum wage workers and people who are vaguely anti-government, some freakout about ripping out the lead singer of Twenty One Pilots’ eyes. I can’t think of a worse crossing of worlds than a Twenty One Pilots and Hobo Johnson concert, to be honest. The entire affair closes out with a self aware little epilogue/trailer that attempts to preempt criticism, “Using emotion to crush, he wants to get them to stop typing and start living” and tell me that I’m on Instagram too much. Well, let me tell you something Frank. This is what I do for a living, so I’m going to continue to type and continue to post, especially about how whack your album and schtick in general is. This is the worst album of the 2020s so far, I feel self-embarrassment listening to this in headphones, I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to play this in front of other people.