Album cover with a man holding a wine bottle on it.



Hobo Johnson
Street: 05.03
Hobo Johnson = Modest Mouse + Daniel Johnston

Hobo Johnson—should I call him Frank? Or, a better question, should I be frank when discussing the rise, the fall and the wasted potential Hobo Johnson has gone through since he stepped on the scene in 2015? It’s been a rollercoaster, to say the least. The outcome? One somewhat-outside-of-his-comfort-zone album with a big studio backing and three other albums that all sound the exact same. This EP? I wish I could say it was a return that differed from the latter but alas, here we are. 

With the latest EP release to hit Spotify, FLOOD THE EARTH/JANSPORT (which may or may not end up becoming a full-length album), Hobo Johnson returns to us once more from his sudden hiatus following his 2021 release, Hobo Johnson Alienates His Fanbase (where he was dissing Drake before it was cool). If you guessed, “it probably sounds exactly like the rest of his discography, ‘cause it always does,” you’d be right. Though, at this point in Johnson’s career, can we really be surprised? That being said, Frank Lopes Jr. has always been aware of what exactly he’s capable of and just how well it works for him. That self-awareness has always sort of made up for his gimmick.

The 12-minute EP discusses an array of topics, despite being such a short trek. Johnson gets existential on tracks like “FLOOD THE EARTH” and “DAD’S BED,” lamenting the death of his father with lyrics like, “Had an awful urge to be an adamant iconoclast, cause how could you take my lovely dad away like that?” and “When I close my eyes when laying in my dad’s bed, sometimes I wanna die just so I can see my best friend.” 

Johnson reflects on his loss, all the while managing to throw out other wild-card topics such as the effects of capitalism on not just the environment, but on a person’s mental wellbeing as well. “JANSPORT” talks about this with lyrics like, “My score out of a hundred was beautifully charted / I saw my self-worth as a tasks I was offered,” and “Find yourself to be treated like an ox in a field / Work until you’re exhausted for a roof and a meal / Taken from nature, given a task just to move our hands more fast.” It’s something that made me reminisce on Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West. Both albums feature a young man reflecting on his own interpersonal struggles while also being hyper-aware of the capitalist hellscape around him and the effects its taken, not only on him during this certain point in his life, but the world around him—though Johnson is far from the lyricist Isaac Brock is.

The EP finishes with “METAVERSE,” which is fairly similar in sound to songs found on The Fall of Hobo Johnson. Really, though, you could say that all of these four songs sound like The Fall of Hobo Johnson. You could also argue they all sound like the same song, and you’d be right. It’s a spiraling, stream-of-consciousness track where Johnson frets about Mark Zuckerberg leading us into a dystopian future with his creation of the Metaverse, an online virtual reality. This is where Johnson shines with his quick wit: “Then Zuckerberg’s morality leading the way / In a gentle, lovely, kind of fascist sort of way / He’s striving, and he’s climbing and he’s fighting for the right to decide / Where the world’s resources ought to lie.”  Johnson raps over a rapidly increasing, jazzy beat with the stomp clap beats that he’s iconically known for. Bonus points for the Cake reference.

Overall, it’s not not great. It’s also not anything extraordinary. It’s just… Hobo Johnson. He doesn’t give you anything more than you’re already expecting. He wants to be Daniel Johnston but just can’t quite work that formula out. I can’t hate on an artist for knowing what works for not only him, but also for the dedicated few who have followed him his entire career. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it—just don’t expect the rest of your listeners to stick around for the same songs wrapped in a new, caricature-packaged EP. –Yonni Uribe

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