By Al Kaufman
Those who complain that Rilo Kiley does not have enough Jenny Lewis will have the same problem with Jenny and Johnny. Jenny and her flame, Johnathan Rice, basically trade songs on their coming out disc, relegating the other person to back-up harmonies and oohs and aahs. But they are both incredibly strong songwriters who sound sweet together. And the photo on the back of the disc is simply adorable (as opposed to the artsy, and over-red cover photo). This is two people in love having in love, so forgive them their trespasses.
And there are trespasses. Many of their poppy melodies get bogged down in overproduction, like on “While Men Are Dreaming” and “Straight Edge of the Blade.” These two are never given a chance to just air it out. Johnny comes close on “Committed,” the disc’s closing track. It’s a cool enough rocker, but it sparks without ever fully igniting.
Jenny throws out an acerbic line or two, such as “I’ll forgive you if I outlive you,” and “It’s a shame you don’t drive, since you don’t drink and you should be driving me around,” but she never truly gets a chance to strut her stuff like she does on her solo discs or with Rilo Kiley. “My Pet Snakes” comes close, and “Just Like Zeus” has a nice ’60s girl band sound to it. It’s followed up nicely by Johnny’s Yardbird-influenced “New Yorker Cartoon,” giving the CD a sort of retro feel. And Johnny really shines on “Animal,” in which he presumably instructs Jenny to “show your teeth to everyone.” It’s a pity that she doesn’t follow his advice here.
I’m Having Fun Now has a lot of tasty nuggets on it, but it somehow does not feel like a meal.
Jenny and Johnny play the Black Cat in Washington DC on Thursday, September 16. It is sold out.