Forming productive work habits is not easy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to sit and write an article or edit someone else’s work, but end up staring at mindless click bait articles and YouTube videos. [Case and point, this article was supposed to come out on four days ago. Habits die hard.]
Jonathon David, frontman of Melbourne’s dancey rock outfit Evil Virgins, had a similar problem. He felt like a zombie idling through life, engaged with things like Netflix, sex, and drugs instead of music.
To make up for lost time Jon started something kinda crazy–writing, recording, and releasing 27 albums (10 songs each) before his 27th birthday on May 26, 2017. 270 Songs has been updated almost every single day with a new song. Many artists would find this huge goal stifling to their creativity, the pressure and expectations too high. But Jon sees the challenge as inspiration to make better and better music. And he hopes it can be motivational to others as well.
If some drunk asshole like me can be creative and productive everyday, so can you.
This asshole is moved. So much so, that I’ve decided to do something a little crazy myself. To celebrate Jon’s completed 50th song, I’m reviewing all of them–even if in just a few words. I’ve underlined some of my favorites. Follow along below. Enjoy.
1. “Florida is Hot”: We’re starting off on the right foot. There’s a fun, ticking beat that builds the song’s foundation for the light, sunset-like guitar. Jon croons, “Is it hot enough for you?”
2. “Joseph, Mary, and John”: I’m already really surprised by the detail in these songs; egg shaker, vocal ticks, and woodblock all make an appearance here. The song goes through numerous changes as parts come in and out. Jon’s voice is more obscured.
3. “Does It Feel Right”: This one feels like a foggy day at the beach. The guitar dances around like a teenybopper, but the vocals are processed into a dark haze. The playful delivery reminds me of Iggy Pop.
4. “Falling”: I love the ringing sounds in the background of this one–like the sound of crystals shimmering. “Falling” has the poppiest hook so far. “I should be falling in love with you.”
5. “OD’ed on Nostalgia”: ooooo. The deep rasp that we’ve known up until now is gone. It’s replaced by the delicate, higher-pitched lulls of a hopeless romantic. The synths deepen the mood. The nostalgia in question is that of John Hughes films. Everyone grab a dance partner, proceed to the dance floor, and rock back in forth because I know you don’t know the right way to slow dance.
6. “A Little Time”: The Growlers could have made this song. The guitars and vocals have a similar twangy trot to them.
7. “Always, Forever”: Straight forward. “You will be mine. I will be yours. Always, forever.” Another contender for the most aggressive track so far.
8. “Respect”: What does respect mean to Jon David? Given the heavily distorted vocals, the answer seems ambiguous. I think I made out the phrase “limp dick suckin’,” and that’s no way to respect a dick.
9. “I’m not an Artist”: What does it mean to be an artist? In his critique, Jon pokes fun at the overly pretentious title, saying artists “make every other artist feel like a neglected clitoris.” He claims no one is an artist. “We are all just ourselves.”
10. “Motivational Seeker”: There’s a dancey little guitar part during the verse that I love. “Motivational Seeker” seems to take influence from the 270 Song project itself. We all wander about, seeking reasons to follow our dreams instead of actually accomplishing them.
11. “Are you Lost?”: Quickly paced and short (just over two and a half minutes). Very jangly. Jon sings with soul. The answer to the song title’s question should be obvious.
12. “Probation”: When talking to Jon about why he started 270 Songs, he mentioned that he thought he was spending too much time drinking and doing drugs. The man in “Probation” has the same problem. He can’t drink and drive anymore because if he gets caught, it’s straight to jail. He can’t get high. Being on probation is fucking hard.
13. “6 minutes”: At 6 minutes, 24 seconds, “6 minutes” is tied for the longest song Jon has released up until now. It’s a slow burner, waves of cymbal and guitar crash on each other. Towards the end, chaos ensues as the noise builds and builds until it can’t hold anymore.
14. “it was/is You”: This one is hella sweet. Disco guitars and cowbell join forces to make one sugary chorus, as Jon delivers his vocals like a buzzed Mac DeMarco. It’s so light and poppy that I even get a taste of Maroon 5.
15. “Pig Lady”: The variations between song topics is great. One moment we’re listening to drug-induced sadness, and the next he’s singing about a lady who reminds him of swine.
16. “Jelly Bean”: “Jelly Bean” again reminds me of Mac DeMarco. The light-hearted, come-back-to-me tune is exactly what you want to listen to sitting on a porch with your buddies, drinking Miller Lite. I’m still not sure exactly why Jon wants a jelly bean, though. Probably drugs.
17. “Give Back”: “I was fucked up for days.” The past. “I’ll you’ll ever be is what you give back.” The future. We spend so much of our lives idling. But when you find out how you can make the world better, that’s when you become of real purpose.
18. “FUCK UP”: This is held together by chewing gum and duct tape. It’s dirty and raw. Jon channels his punk attitude as he beats his head, and instruments, into the wall. “I’M FUCKED UP.”
19. “Habit of the Dramatic”: There’s a cool irony to a song about melodrama being so tame. Here, he drags out his words in a quiet mumble. But with the intensity of “FUCK UP” still ringing in my ear, I can see the seams about to pop.
20. “I Wish I was Jonathan Richman”: Jonathan Michael Richman (born May 16, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. In 1970 he founded the Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band.
21. “Is It Snowing?”: No. Of course not. We live in Florida. But there is a cool guitar line about halfway through the song that falls like how I imagine the frozen rain does. Tied for the longest song to surface on 270 Songs, the journey we’re taken on gets progressively colder.
22. “I’ve Never Been So Lonely (Little One)”: I love the clarity of Jon’s voice on this one. He seems incredibly sincere when he states his solemness.
23. “Stick It In”: Starting with strange, minimal sounds, the song builds slowly into a smooth jam.
24. “Nobody Knows”: I’m about halfway done. I’m already exhausted. I don’t know how Jon can write every part, record, and mix these a new one of these things every day. He’s a monster.
25. “She’s My Mother”: At the beginning of the track, Jon dedicates it to his mom. He then goes on to explain that on multiple occasions, his mother saved him from dying from asthmatic shock. I’m not sure because I’m writing all of these after their release, but I have a sneaking suspicion this was released on Mother’s Day.
26. “Everything is Sexier in Miami, Even You”: I’m over halfway there!! “I don’t want to go back home… because no one knows how to play or have fun.” This ode to MIA has everything that is key to the city: cocaine.
27. “Out of Key, Out of Time, Out of Ideas”: Creativity is often brought out of pressure. Whether you’re rushing for a deadline, writing a new song every day, or reviewing all of those songs in one sitting, we feel stressed because our bodies are preparing themselves to accomplish whatever task we have in front of us. I believe this is the case with “Out of Key, Out of Time, Out of Ideas,” a beautiful instrumental piece and one of my favorites so far.
28. “AMY”: I really thought this song was about Amy Winehouse until he started singing about her not being able to eat solid foods because of a broken jaw. Poor girl is worse off.
29. “Little Boy”: dootdoot doot doot. doot. doot. doot. The melody that won’t get out of your head. Both the guitar and vocals use it throughout, making it a jumpy, happy time.
30. “Gettin Busy”: 270 Songs at its most blues rock. The groove breaks down into a funky bridge that sounds like a deranged Buddy Guy. And those bass pops on the off beat! (I think I’m saying that right.)
31. “Suicide Note”: “I don’t know what to do. You say I was killing you.” The despair on this song is hurtful. I can see the grizzled, tired Jon David writing this to his estranged lover. He strums his guitar four times. The first three are so quick, but when he bashes the fourth, the pain rings on and on. Organs signal a funeral. “We both know I’m gonna die tonight.”
32. “I Wanna Go Home”: The barebones nature of “I Wanna Go Home,” again pulls at the heart right out of the chest cavity. After “Suicide Note,” this song feels like we’re following Jon’s ghost to purgatory. Again, the organ is so, so haunting.
33. “It’s not me, It’s you”: Our narrator seems to be having an altercation with a younger man, whom he calls “boy.” He puffs up his chest and tells the boy what he’s dealing with; “I’m drunk all of the time. You got a problem with that? I don’t think so.” He’s clearly a man with nothing to lose, and you shouldn’t fuck with him. “I’ve got a problem. It’s called myself.”
34. “BLACK CLOUD (god ISN’T REAL, YOU ARE)”: When the first verse starts and all we hear is Jon’s distorted voice and the drums… Then the guitars, an eerie organ, and some background ooo’s come in… FUCK DUDE. It is so powerful. His anguish can be felt through every element. “Black clouds are coming down.”
35. “Back On Crack”: Crack sound really fun. It sounds like organ, cowbell, and toe tappin’ fun. It sounds like a madman screaming in my ear–less fun, still kinda cool.
36. “She’s too Beautiful for me”: I wrote a piece about Unknown Hinson recently–he’s kinda like Johnny Cash meets The Cramps on meth. And he’s a character played by a comedian/musician. “She’s too Beautiful for me” has a similar charm to it, but Jon is less ridiculous and more self-depreciating. It’s relatable. I love the line, “And I’m not that good of a fuck.”
37. “Roll With Me”: Smoking a wiz with someone you’re into is a magical experience. It’s a different way to engage with someone or to get to know them. Until you start saying things like “I lost the love of my life.”
38. “2032”: I’ll be 40 in 2032. Seems really old. Jon will be 43. He’s not exactly sure if he’ll be loving the same woman or dead. In my life, both of those things seem incredibly unlikely yet somewhat probable. IDK.
39. “I’m Praying For You”: I wasn’t so sure about this song for the first 45 seconds or so. Then a sudden guitar lick hits and the whole tune takes off. It jumps to life with more and more bright guitars. Everything is mixed beautifully.
40. “BLOODSUCKER”: When talking to Jon about 270 Songs, before number 50 was released, he said this was his best to date. Going through everything until now, there’s a clear growth. He’s been working the muscle so much that it must be becoming a little easier, if not second nature. And he’s getting better. That’s clear with “BLOODSUCKER.”
41. “Guided by Callahan”: This is the kind of song I want to see in front me. I can see a packed Spacebar–much like when Jon’s band Evil Virgins played a Body//Talk there–shaking the walls to this one. A steady snare claps with the bob of their viewer’s heads. Depending on the crowd, a mosh pit could hit during the chorus. They’d fucking chant.
42. “Falling out of Love”: “Falling out of Love” could be in an 80s rom-com. The hook reminds me of Culture Club–their voices sound so nice and sweet but what they’re sayings is heartbreaking.
43. “Does Anybody Like Me”: “i hate my life.” From the second #43 starts, I’m interested. He continues to list shitty things about where he is in the world. The delivery is hardened, stoic. He’s excepted this. But then–and this has happened more than a few times–the I want to move. And he’s still saying horribly depressing shit, but it sounds too much like a beach party.
44. “She only like’s Rock and Roll”: The Stooges shout out is so fitting because the song as a whole is a callback to early punk. Jon moves his waspy effects in and makes the place his own.
45. “True Love”: “I will kill the man. Shoot him in his fuucking head. If you fall in love, baby, I’d be your man.” The juxtaposition of these themes says a huge amount about the kind of love this man has to give. It’s not safe. It’s not stable. But he will fuucking love you. And the funky breakdown at the end–complete with light pole drumming–is amazing.
46. “Brevard County Line”: I don’t know why, but I’m just imagining that the name of this song is a reference to a street where prostitutes frequent.
47. “Freak Wave”: “Everyone is the one.” Here, Jon has taken up a new view on love. Anyone could be your true love. You just have to let them. “You could be happy if you would let yourself be free, like me.” This song is so cool because its message differs vastly everything else Jon has said about love. Maybe he turned a new leaf. Maybe he’s fucking around with us.
48.”Bitterness is a Warm Gun”: Jon seems to be learning his lesson. He’s telling the bad people to “fuck off.” And it sounds beautiful.
49. “Dirty, Hairy”: Is anybody still reading this? Has someone really read all 49 reviews? I’m going to go ahead and move to 50 just to see if anybody notices. [Note: This song is good. He sounds like a jungle man at one point.]
50. “Christian School”: the last one. Releasing a song every fucking day must be hard. Jon has 220 more days of it. “Christian School” has a lovely section that sounds like something The Beach Boys would have put on Pet Sounds. The final chorus feels appropriately triumphant, drum fills abundant and moral high.
[Jonathon David has released #51 since I started writing, but this is a 50 song celebration. Keep up with the next 220 on his Bandcamp.]
I’m done writing. No fucking conclusion.