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John Doe
FOREVER HASNíT HAPPENED YET
(Yep Roc)

John Doe has always been a punk romantic with a deep appreciation of punkís role as a contemporary folk music. But his populist leanings havenít always served him well: the emotional urgency of Xís first four now-classic albums gave way, as the band wound down, to overproduced, underwhelmingly flat recordings that ached to be embraced by some silent majority of regular folks who, as alt-country legend has it, exist in some Woody Guthrie purgatory between Nashville and LA.

On Forever Hasnít Happened Yet, Doe continues to wander blandly on, writing real songs about real people with real problems whoíd probably rather escape into some gangstaís paradise or stick to a diet of whatever Nashville and LA are offering. The irony is that whenever Doe drops the sensitive-guy routine to reconnect with his angry punk roots, as he has in several X reunion tours and did on one particularly pissed-off Kill Rock Stars EP, 1998ís bristling For the Rest of Us, he sounds as good as ever.

Unfortunately, Forever Hasnít Happened Yet is a serious Doe album, full of grave tunes and sadly strummed acoustic guitars as well as a bevy of guest cameos (Dave Alvin, Neko Case, Kristin Hersh, Grant Lee Phillips, and Doeís daughter Veronica Jane) that almost distract you from the lack of hooks and from half-baked lyrics like "Someone broke your heart when they dropped it on the ground" ("Heartless"). Former X mate Exene Cervenka did team up with her former husband to write the discís standout track, the X-style duet "Hwy. 5," which has Neko Case playing opposite Doe. But by far the biggest influence here is producer Dave Way, whose former work with Sheryl Crow and Macy Gray tells you all you need to know about the mature sound Doe stubbornly continues to chase.

(John Doe headlines T.T. the Bearís Place, 10 Brookline Street in Central Square this Friday, April 1, with the Brett Rosenberg Problem and the Nick Luca Trio; call 617-492-BEAR.)

BY MATT ASHARE


Issue Date: April 1 - 7, 2005
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