Joho – A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity – Album Review
This guy could write the album, the book, and the movie as far as I can tell. Every time I end up checking out a new Joho record, I end up digging into the numbers & all that kinda stuff…and while I sit here more often than not cranking up whatever he’s created next, I’m equally kind of both fascinated and disgusted by the fact that the entire world hasn’t been tuning in like they should be. Have I not yelled and screamed loud enough? Did winning our Best New Sound competition last year not convince a few of you folks out there that Joho is miles ahead of the rest? Good lord knows it should have, but I don’t know if I see enough evidence if I’m being truthful with ya – in my opinion, the whole damn planet is basically sleepin’ on this guy…and if I’m being even more honest with ya, not much more that I can think of drives me more crazy than that when it comes to our music-scene. In some kind of just reality, this guy would have the millions of followers and fans he deserves. I’d tell him to be offended if I thought he had anything to do with it…the ice cold truth of the matter is that apathy in listeners and the way they support the scene is running rampant lately; as if artists & bands & pages continue without motivation. We take far too many things for granted…and if we’re not careful, we lose’em. We’ve got a slight advantage with Joho being just as addicted to making music as you’ll ever find an artist to be, so you know he ain’t just gonna give up tomorrow – I’m just saying DAMN – someone out there show this dude the real love he deserves will ya? Joho’s in the trenches right now, but he ain’t gonna stay there forever.
In my opinion, he’s shown us time & again that he’s got a well of ideas and love of the craft that never gets tapped – the man writes a quality tune, and there’s no question about that. I do think he’d probably benefit from slowing down an iota or two to round out the corners sometimes, and that remains to be true here on this new record as well – but when it comes to the fundamental definition of what the X-factor is REALLY all about, that’s what this man right here exemplifies. I couldn’t honestly give two shits about the occasional flaw in a cut or something I personally feel like could have come out better somehow – who am I? I’m just another guy with an opinion, take it or leave it. To me, what matters most is whether or not you can hear someone has ideas that connect, and Joho’s got plenty. He’s made a lot of music this year alone since he took the crown here at our homepage as Dirk Turquoise & The Grimy Pastels with the record Parliament Of Fools in 2020 – and they’ve all had their own deal goin’ on, which is par for the course when it comes to this master of mixology & musical fusion. That being said, they’ve also all kind of revealed different elements that might show Joho rushing the process a bit…the Upper Campus EP is laden with some of his most brilliant songwriting to-date, but suffers a little through the natural production…Discotheque Funeral had some extraordinarily addictive tunes, but came out fairly niche & a little uneven…and here on A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity, he’s taking on a lineup of fifteen songs – and y’all know how I feel about records of that length. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a perfect album with more than ten or twelve cuts on it, I’m just saying it becomes an exponentially tougher achievement, beyond the scope of even the best of the best in almost every circumstance. So the odds are stacked against Joho here…but let’s see how this goes…
While it’s a record credited to Joho, he does start it out with a shout-out to Dirk Turquoise & The Grimy Pastels as it begins, and dives straight into the British-inspired Pop/Rock vibe he was exploring on Parliament Of Fools last year on “The Birth Of Glory.” Solid ground in the sense of sound – YOU all voted Joho as our winner for a record full of what “The Birth Of Glory” is like to listen to, and rightly so – I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I get to the chorus of this cut and I’m just about as addicted to this tune as I get to this man’s music. I LIKE the vibe of the verses…BUT…I do think the first minute catches him in a couple weird spots trying to catch the full strength of the low-end melody in his vocals – AND…there is a completely bizarre tuning-thing that occurs in the music within the first thirty-five seconds that was so mind-boggling it had me questioning my own sanity. By about fifty-seconds in, Joho’s on solid ground and remains that way throughout the rest of the track to follow, the music as well – from there on, really, it’s pretty much flawless as far as I’m concerned, and great energy to start this new record with.
He is gonna have to cop to a major Brendon Urie influence at some point…”Home From Therapy” is almost right outta the man’s playbook, and you’ll find a few others in the mix along the way as well…but MAN…how do you resist a track like this one? Joho’s gift for getting the most out of his main hooks when he’s at his most focused, is genuinely unlike any other…he gets such an endearing & sincere sound into his voice that simply connects on every level – he takes some major chances with his range, style, and approach to how he sings “Home From Therapy” and he should be seriously applauded for the effort. Look…I’ll be real with ya…there might be the slightest quirk or two in the vocals here & there that we could all go back & forth about as to whether or not there’s a smoother performance that could be put into certain parts of the verses – maybe – but I’d argue that it’s part of the magic on a track like “Home From Therapy.” Joho isn’t afraid to fail – and that’s one of the best things about listening to his music – the proof is right there in the pudding with the fact he’s had more significant breakthroughs with his music in the past five years than most artists or bands will experience in a lifetime career. Any tiny moments you might question here become a huge part of the song’s endearing charm and what pulls us in if you ask me – and we’d be splitting hairs to begin with – 99.9% of this track has Joho knockin’ it straight outta the park with personality and melody that you’ll remember. Listen to all that he’s got goin’ on and recognize the credit he deserves – he’s not only crushing the lead and completely delivering the pure magic of melody at its finest in the chorus, but the backing vocals he’s put into “Home From Therapy” came out spectacular as well. When you listen to the demands he’s put upon himself in singing a song like this with such a range of styles & sounds & approaches from every angle, believe me, it becomes pretty easy to forgive that .1% when the rest is all so undeniably damn amazing.
Again…if we’re looking at the fundamentals of what makes a song work at the core of the writing and ideas, “Up Past 10” is a hit in the making by every sense of the definition. As it stands right now here on A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity…Joho’s missin’ this one by a fair margin compared to how precise he’s been throughout most of his past several records. Don’t get me wrong y’all – I GET IT – I know exactly WHY a song like this ends up on an album, even when it’s still in the incubation stage – because LISTEN TO IT will ya? “Up Past 10” is THAT song…it’s THAT cut that, despite what could be arguably a series of strange attempts to tap into the full strength of this melody, it’s STILL ridiculously addictive somehow. Now if you can tell me why THAT is, I’d love to hear it…because even I can’t explain how that works. There are a whole bunch of things that bug me about “Up Past 10,” and Joho knows most of what those would be after reading my comments year after year I’m sure – he just needs to take more time with a song like this one in my opinion. The lead is pretty much bang-on…maybe a spot here & there that could be a bit stronger, but it’s essentially all there; as for the backing vocals, I think he’s a lot further outside of the realm of what listeners are gonna accept than he might realize here. Like I said from the start, I ain’t hatin’ on the ideas here – not even in the background – but there’s not a doubt in my mind that Joho’s capable of bringing more to a song like “Up Past 10” in terms of finding that balance between what he wants to do in challenging himself as an artist and the accessibility we need. I’ll admit, he’s still got a killer energy that you can’t take your ears off of…and part of me even appreciates that the backing levels add a degree of fun to the party that you don’t really get in the spirit of every Joho tune too…I’m guilty of always taking things way too seriously & wanting the best in the potential of the artists & bands I hear. I truly mean that, and I genuinely apologize for it all the time – there ain’t nothing wrong with turning up the amplifiers and having a good time too, regardless of whether or not everything comes out perfect or not – “Up Past 10” proves that can be just as addictive.
While it’s not as pronounced on “City Lights” as it just was on “Up Past 10,” he also had me questioning just what the heck he was up to in the backing vocals of this tune as well. Because these leads are coming out strong brother…and part of me is wondering whether or not they always need the backup. This was a tougher track for me for sure…I had a harder time not being a little indifferent about this one if I’m bein’ real with ya…it’s a good track, but I felt like it was missing that essential spark to make it a great one. Even at its most involved, it’s still just kind of a pleasant & quaint vibe goin’ on…for the most part at least…I felt like the backing vocals definitely hindered the man a bit on this one…the highest up of the bunch being the biggest obstacle – it becomes the dominant aspect of what we hear, which isn’t exactly what you want outta the background. Yeah…not really sure what to tell ya about “City Lights” – I just felt like it was missing that major show-stopping element that Joho continually finds in just about every cut he creates. I dig that he name-checks the Foo Fighters and “Everlong” in the lyrics of this tune and adds in a similar chorus vibe to complement the idea on “City Lights,” that aspect of the writing was interesting to me as a lifelong fan of the band…but there was something about this cut that just seemed to be slightly wide of the goal in finding a successful way to switch from being decent to becoming great.
I could make the argument as to what the difference is, but Joho knows just as well as I do that he makes the case for me when “Society Of Warmbloods” comes on. From the very moment this song starts, you FEEL that exact magic you were looking for from this man…and it’s like…freakin’ euphoric and triumphant, all at once…this is the cut where the Joho you know he can be, sounds fully realized & flawless. I write these reviews in stages generally speaking…absorbing albums over the course of a week or so & gathering my thoughts…so I have the advantage of being as current as I possibly can be – and I can tell ya firsthand from looking at Joho’s Twitter feed that he knows everything I’m tellin’ ya about this tune right here – he’s acknowledged that this is where his record goes on a significant run, and he’s right about that. With its orchestral-based sound, “Society Of Warmbloods” is an outstandingly unique song, an early highlight within the lineup of A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity, and a real gem to add to his catalog overall. Listening to this guy surge into the third minute actually raises the stakes even more if you ask me – that might very well go down as one of THE best moments I’ve ever heard from Joho, full-stop. Do I want a little or a lot more of that right there? Yes. Yes I do. Because dammit I’m greedy – and that is one monumentally breathtaking moment in time that will absolutely stick with you long after the music has stopped playing – the finale of “Society Of Warmbloods” is a pure artistic victory for Joho. The same can really be said of this song as a whole though…it’s got all the right ways of being different from the rest of what’s out there, while retaining a stunning level of accessibility and engaging melody.
Ever the outsider, Joho takes you on an internal trip through an emotional journey on “Indigo’s Odyssey” – and as I was tellin’ ya, it continues the ride into a very strong mid-section of his new album. Tracks like this one really reveal the artistic depth and innovative way he approaches his writing – “Indigo’s Odyssey” is another stellar example of how he’s able to create spectacularly unique material that genuinely feels & sounds unlike anything you’ve heard before. Like I’ve been saying, the closest you might get is whatever Brendon Urie is doing…but C’MON y’all – if THAT is the comparison to be made, do you not realize what I’ve been yellin’ about? Urie’s making millions – and Joho’s got talent and songwriting skills that could easily rival the dude on the best of his days…you listen to a song like “Indigo’s Odyssey” and you have to admire the commitment to the craft and the passion that you hear. Beyond all that, you have to appreciate the stellar performance you hear – when Joho’s got himself really invested in the moment and finds that melody he’s looking for like he has throughout this entire song, the magic is purely undeniable to anyone that would listen. Love what he’s come up with here from the lead to the background harmonies…love the way this song evolves through the way it builds, and I love the fact that so much of “Indigo’s Odyssey” really is left on Joho’s shoulders to pull off from the vocals alone. The music does end up becoming more of a factor as it plays on, but take a real close listen to the DNA of “Indigo’s Odyssey” and you’ll realize it’s our hero on the mic that makes the main difference here from start to finish…Joho is elegant, charming, melodic, and powerfully moving – and when you listen to how much is asked of him throughout the range of his vocals in between the layers of this tune…I mean…full credit where credit is due, he’s humble, vulnerable, and superhuman on this cut.
I wouldn’t say that “A Tale Of Trivialization” lets the consistency of the quality in the performance or writing down, though I’d same I’m more attached to the two cuts just prior by comparison. If someone out there wanted to tell me this track was their favorite on A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity, I’d simply say have at it hoss, turn it on up and do your thang – we’ve all got our favorites. Joho has SO MANY things that he does extremely well that honestly, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in this guy’s head with all the many talents he’s got…to even wake up in the morning and be able to just grab an instrument and basically rock competently & capably in any genre he chooses is an extraordinary gift. “A Tale Of Trivialization” is a bit more on the flashy side of sound for my own personal taste is all – it’s still a high quality tune by every measure – in the second minute, he’ll even tap into like…I dunno what you’d call it other than what you think of when you think of Franz Ferdinand – that whole upbeat vibe. For me, I’m much more about the downtrodden side of Joho’s catalog and more melancholic melodies, those are generally the cuts that connect to me the most…when he’s gettin’ his dance-mode on, I’m usually a bit more naturally resistant. Certainly no fault on his part – the music of “A Tale Of Trivialization” has sensational color & dynamic sound to it, played in part by Aaron Sanchez…like I said, it’s a track I’m sure a heck of a lot of people out there listening would argue could be one of the album’s very best, and I wouldn’t disagree just based on my own personal preferences – together they’ve done everything right on this cut to make it stand out…and in a live setting? C’mon – Joho would bring the whole house down playing this track with the amount of personality & spark it has at its peak intensity.
While I wouldn’t say I entirely love the production on “Little White House” and that it seems a little bit grittier than perhaps it should be for the sweetness it provides – in my opinion, if we’re talkin’ about accessible melodies and music that listeners are guaranteed to love, this track is again amongst the best I think he’s ever written. As I’ve been sayin’ – Joho likes & tries so many different things so fearlessly that you have to give him the props he deserves for that as an artist…it’s tough to know what HE was looking for in the sound he was seeking to create – all I can ever tell ya is what I hear on this end. To me, there’s plenty of room in the mix for “Little White House” to get that added clarity it should likely have; I get it, it’s an amped-up energy Pop/Rock dealio & all, but he’s right on the audible edge of puttin’ the proverbial sand in your underwear…I felt like this track would benefit from a more crystalline sound in the production I suppose. Once again, it’s neither here nor there though really – personally, there’s absolutely nothing in the world that’s gonna stop me from turning “Little White House” straight UP to the rafters and sing along every time it comes around…it’s certainly more than addictive as it already is. Joho does dreamy vibes better than so many out there do, and always captures a remarkable sincerity that’s relentlessly enticing and equally entertaining – this “Little White House” of his is full of all that good stuff we love from this guy…performance wise, writing wise, everything I wanna hear from Joho is everywhere to be found on this single-worthy cut…the rest is all just tweakin’ dials and adjusting levels.
Case in-point, “To The Moon” would be one of the dreamiest as he takes ya right into the stratosphere through this atmospherically-inclined cut. All-in-all, another spectacular track to add into Joho’s catalog, and another song that would be right up there with my own personal favorites; to me, listening to “To The Moon” was what it sounds like when you hear an artist get every single ounce of a song’s potential. For one of the longer tracks on A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity at over five-minutes in total length, Joho deserves a serious shout-out for how damn perfect this whole track is from start to finish – I think I went through about four different points of thinking something like, ‘oh hellz yeah, that’s the perfect way to raise the stakes’ – and it was truly like that just kept happening, over and over and over. How awesome is that right? Each time you think you’ve heard the best transition or change in “To The Moon” – and keep in mind, this song starts out amazing to begin with – but to hear Joho make every moment here seriously connect and count, one-upping himself continually along the way, is really something special to witness if I’m being outright honest with ya. He’s definitely known to be able to generate multiple hooks within one song – that’s never been in dispute and he flexes that gear with the finesse of a true professional – but for real…you’ll hear “To The Moon” and genuinely be mesmerized by just how many amazing moments you’ll find within this ONE experience. It’s like Joho’s got an entire album’s worth of hooks in this one cut that any other artist or band would have spread out thinly over the course of twelve tracks…instead you get it all into one incredibly tight song that continuously gets better and better and better until your head is spinning from the outpouring of inspired sound you hear. I think the world about the addictive vibes on “Little White House,” don’t get me wrong – but if we’re talking about songs that are fully realized from the very core concept, to the performance, and the final mix – I’m quite content to say that “To The Moon” would easily be right up there in Joho’s top five cuts. Not just on this album, but of all-time…and I’d hand this cut a decisive victory in that regard – I think he got the maximum potential out of the melody, music, and vocals on “To The Moon” – and as far as the writing and structure of this song are concerned, it’s easily one of the best I’ve heard in 2021 for sure.
I’d imagine “Devotee” has a solid chance of being a cut from this record that will entice a whole bunch of listeners in…there’s pretty much nothing but single-worthy vibes goin’ on here, and a highly relevant hybrid sound at work throughout this track that stands out bold & brilliantly with BIG drums and bright vocals. Joho’s usin’ the ol’ digital effects to his advantage in this one, flexing between his natural voice and a stellar sound to the enhanced bits in the hooks…there’s a lot of punch and energy in “Devotee” that I’d imagine will have no problem at all finding an audience to appreciate it. Personally, I’m majorly impressed with the fact that, I think it’s got the hardest spot in this entire lineup of songs on this album to fill, and you come out remembering “Devotee” probably every bit as much as you would “To The Moon” right beforehand, albeit for entirely different reasons, but yeah…the point is that the strengths continue to get revealed. Right at that point we talked about earlier on with “Society Of Warmbloods,” Joho locked this whole record down tighter-than-tight from there forward, and has kept the consistency as sharp as his focus – “Devotee” came out sounding fantastic, catchy, and like it’s pretty much destined to be a fan favorite for sure. I gotta admit…it’d be a damn tough track to resist and I ain’t inclined to try.
LISTEN. “Hometown Hooligans” jams with brilliantly uniqueness that instantly stands out – and hellz yeah, this is what fun sounds like to me. Joho’s not encouraging me lyrically to dance here, so I feel like I’m actually much more inclined to do so…I won’t, because I don’t, but that’s on me, not him – you get the point – if I DID, I’d be busting moves right now, because I absolutely LOVE the vibe he taps into as “Hometown Hooligans” plays on. I’ll admit, at first, I thought to myself…can it BE as good as the last three songs have been beforehand? And I think by about halfway through “Hometown Hooligans” I was like, yep, it certainly can be. There’s an insatiably natural energy to this track that’s as welcoming and inviting as music can be…and like…LISTEN to that SNARE will ya? I freakin’ LOVE IT…it’s like he’s beatin’ on a tin can in the best of ways…and combined with the bass-line grooves at the core of this cut – believe me, the music itself would sell ya on “Hometown Hooligans” – it just so happens to be the case that Joho expands this track’s potential even further through one of his most inspired performances. You can hear it – he’s into this moment, feelin’ it, and goin’ with the flow – and as a result, I think he gives each and every one of us that same opportunity, like we’re right there with him. He spends a significant portion of this song locked into the main hooks…and trust me, when you hear’em, you’ll know why that is. No matter how many times I spun this record this week, I never got tired of this track – there’s just something special about it that feels extremely damn good to listen to – Joho’s got the juice on “Hometown Hooligans” & puts serious sparkle into a sensational performance that gets his best.
“Debauchery In B Minor” is a song! Look…every great run has to meet its end at some point – and this is likely where it’s the end of the line from that string that started way back at track five for most listeners out there. I’m not hatin’ on it…I’m not lovin’ it either, mind you…I think I’m more just questioning its inclusion within this particular lineup on A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity…this was a harder track to say felt like it really belonged with the rest of this set. Right around the 3:30 mark, Joho makes some superb moves on the mic that I thought provided a stellar highlight throughout the next minute or so – and I felt like there are some powerful hooks within this track revealed along the way as well. As to whether or not this cut’s gonna land with the majority in the court of public opinion or not is harder to say…or if people will feel like “Debauchery In B Minor” is a fit for this record, equally harder to judge. My gut suspects this track’s a bit on the outside by a degree or two…but as far as its intentions & energy are concerned…I mean…it’s supposed to be a jarring moment, which is ultimately what this track becomes in the context of the flow of this record, making sure you’re all paying attention for the run towards the end of the album to follow. The main hooks of this cut really are memorable…I give Joho points for his creativity for sure and I’d never wanna discourage that…like I said, if anything I think the execution is there, the ideas are wild…I just questioned whether or not it fit this particular record is all.
Ooooooooo! HOT moments in music to be found as Joho closes-in on the second minute of “The Kids” – he’s got spots in this song that’ll make you turn your head and seriously marvel at what you just heard. Of the Rock-inspired vibes on this record, “The Kids” came out with some of the best production of the bunch for sure…all-in-all, it’s got that really clever use of dynamics that shift, transition, and morph Joho’s tune in a variety of ways that can’t seem to help but stand out to our ears in all the right ways. I suppose it’d be fair to say that “The Kids” might not necessarily push the music of Joho much in terms of the artistic challenge it would present to him in making it – but there’s something to be said for perfection when you hear it, and it’d be pretty hard to argue that’s not what you’re hearing on this song. I certainly don’t hear anything out of place in the performance or the production…if there’s a flaw to be found, I ain’t hearing it – all I’m hearing is smooth sailing for the star of the show here, and there definitely isn’t anything wrong with going that route every once in a while. “The Kids” has endlessly colorful energy, it has fully engaging sound, and massively catchy sing-along worthy hooks; I am not gonna be the guy to complain about such a selection of built-to-enjoy vibes – it’s audibly triumphant; and the spirited way Joho plays and sings this song is more than enough to wanna turn this straight up.
No reason not to be proud of the way that “The Deep End” came out…I’d imagine many listeners out there will find this cut to be one of the most endearing moments on the entire album for sure. Gently led by the piano melody as it begins, Joho captures the unraveling of his emotions & thoughts in a very real & honest way that makes for a subtle highlight for sure. You feel the up close & personal nature of the songwriting on “The Deep End” through the way that Joho sings it…ultimately he’s got very little surrounding him in this minimalist design, but it all comes out to maximum effect. It’s only because I’ve listened to as much of his music as I have that I can spot something like a similar vocal pattern around the 3:15 mark that he’s used in his material to a degree before – but even that was welcome for another go around in “The Deep End.” It’s always tough to argue that a ballad of any kind is gonna be the track that the people out there get excited about, but I’d imagine the hearts & minds out there listening to this record will have no problem at all connecting to the humble sincerity they’ll find in “The Deep End.” It’s well-written…the horns may/may not be overused a lil’ depending on who you are, but I like what they brought to the melody overall…”The Deep End” is a good tune that has Joho reaching internally to create a song that connects to all of us in the process, and I’d be inclined to say mission accomplished.
Bringin’ out the rock-piano to finish off the new record with a bit of added flair in the mix & sparkle to the melody, “Long Way Gone” makes for a solid conclusion to Joho’s new record with a ton of upbeat energy and hooks that should have no problem bringin’ the people on back for another spin or two. He’s almost within the Classic Rock realm with “Long Way Gone,” with pivotal stops in the 80s along the way – another hybrid from the master of flipping the script between records from what you think you knew about Joho to something new, every time. It’s a positive conclusion in that sense for sure – you feel like you’ve completed a level, or finished a theatre performance when you factor in the very end of “Long Way Gone” too, which really ensures you know right when it’s over & you’re supposed to be on your feet for the ovation. Joho’s got a diverse array of versatile entertainment running through this lineup of cuts that reveals many significant highlights you’ll remember, a few ups & downs along the way, and another milestone achieved with how much music he’s supplied to the planet this year alone. The dude’s thriving in his art & continuing to surge into his prime…and who knows what he’ll come up with next – Joho is competent, capable, and compelling no matter which direction he seems to choose.
A Beginner’s Guide To True Insanity is available officially this December 3rd – you can pre-order it at Bandcamp now, and find a ton of amazing music by Joho right here: https://johomusic.bandcamp.com
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