John Hyatt: Do What You Wanna Do (self-released)
Former 3 Johns frontman John Hyatt released a solo album back in 2010. As Louder Than War wasn’t around then to offer our support to John by way of a review we’re doing so now, retrospectively as it were.
Following my review of their gig in Preston, Three Johns frontman and chief songwriter Professor John Hyatt asked me if I’d mind reviewing his debut solo album, Do What You Wanna Do, which was released in 2010. A completely independent recording; self-produced, self-designed and self-distributed, it was sold in CD format via his website, Hyatt: Art And Life. I was sent a free copy as a thank you for creating the three johns facebook group “3 Junk- The Three Johns Appreciation Society“, which has gone on to become the (un)officially official FB outlet for all things Johns related; a place to chat about, share photos of, and post videos about the great band. It arrived on the day of the last General Election. Want to know what I thought of it? Read on….
The album opens with the title track, “Do What You Wanna Do”, all feverish techno beats, eldritch backing vocals and defiant, “don’t let the bastards grind you down” themed lyrics which pack a huge emotional punch to the groin and the gut. A call to arms for people content to settle for second best, the track contains some highly arresting, confrontational lyrics which also act as instructions, and offer up a form of therapy. “Nothing is impossible, though it seems improbable”, “as long as you don’t cause harm to anyone, you can do what you wanna do”. The moment when Hyatt, in that highly distinctive, howling singing voice of his, sings “Think back to when someone was telling you, you couldn’t do it, you’re no good, KICK ‘EM OUT!!!!” is one of the most startling I have heard in a pop (for this is a kind of pop) song for ages; but the highlight comes nearer the end, when he bellows “You’ve got a policeman in your head, man. KICK HIM OUT!!!” As opening tracks go, this is up there with the very best; a thrilling slice of cyber age punk/pop which will surely act as a battle cry for disillusioned androids the world over when the new ice age clasps it’s skeletal fingers around the neck of the last remaining banker in the year 2035. Or perhaps even sooner…
The next two tracks are considerably mellower. “Dream Creature” is an almost ambient ode to daydreaming and imagination, “Strumming” is a gorgeous love song reminiscent of Syd Barrett at his most relaxed, and features some ace acoustic guitar work from Hyatt. These tracks stir up memories of lazy days spent with friends as a kid, idly sat by a river on a glorious hot summer’s day, not a care in the world, the joys of being young!! “Falling In Love With Love” asks us to confront ourselves by looking into our hearts to find redemption, and encourages the listener to be pleasantly surprised by what they may find within. “It’s not fear that you’re feeling, but the thrill of the roller coaster – drop down!”. It’s an age old message, for sure, but one which seems to resonate particularly strongly in this largely consumer led, rather more cynical age which we are living in at present. This is an album primarily concerned with the subject of love; not a sanitised, valentine’s day plastic kinda love but a living, breathing human kinda love, one which is trapped inside all of us but also one which some may find harder to come to terms with than others, or acknowledge, and also one which some may have willingly (or unwillingly) suppressed somewhere along the line. In the words of Hyatt; “It’s a spirit and it can be frightening, it can come with fear and trembling, but do not fear.” The following track, “Switch Off And Boogie”, carries a similar theme and message; to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream! “This is my advice to you, I used to be so uptight, Now everything is alright, I used to be so uncool, Now everything is outtasight.” “It Is Good!” is a smouldering track about “wallowing in coloured mud” with a distinctly middle eastern feel to it, and “Sands Of Time (Free Me)” is a spooky, hallucinogenic tune concerned with “a frozen warrior encased in ice” who can be saved with “one gasp”. A repeated mantra of “free me” makes for extremely unsettling listening, although reading the lyrics it could also be interpreted as a call for the listener to release their inner warrior. Either way, musically it’s pretty damn spooky! “I Turn These Words” is a highly poetic number, featuring lines about tuning words to “water” and “fire” and set to a mildly industrial, rave-flecked and groove surfing musical backdrop. It brings to mind all those cool hippy tents in the fields of Glastonbury Festival; the solar powered amplifiers, the herbal teas, the didgeridoo’s…great days! But where, one or two 3 Johns fans may be asking at this point, are the politics? Fear not, comrades, they are all present and correct….
“Sweet Angel Cake” is an attack on the “little greedy grasping ghosts” who are “applying for and getting the top jobs by the way.” I think you may have guessed who these ghosts may be. They’re “in the colleges, the government, business and the banks.” Yep, those omnipresent corporate scumbags who delight in making the citizens of the UK’s lives a misery with their greedy, conniving, money-led little ways. So what’s the solution? Hyatt plans to bake a beautiful cake and leave it within reah of the “little greedy grasping ghosts”, who will surely eat it. Just one taste of this cake will “send them to the void where they belong.” However, Hyatt warns any non-ghosts who may come across it to stay away, “Don’t dare bite a slice of my sweet angel cake!” War mongers, money grabbers and planet rapers beware; your days are well and truly numbered!
Back to the theme of lurve. In “Little Boy Blue”, the title character is in desperate need of “sweet words to make his love happy”, and is given advice by the spirirts of the air, who love him dearly. The song ends with a delirious mantra; “You are the son of Pan, so blow your horn”, repeated until the song’s conclusion by which time you are left with a huge, beaming pop grin on your boatrace. “Boomerang Love” (stream above) continues this pop theme; a joyful, Dylan/Stones style electric sixties pop stormer with a catchy, TRexy chorus of “Boom, boom, boom, Boomerang Love!” Probably the album’s most conventional track, and arguably the one which sounds most like a hit single. However, there is even better to come! “Go With The Flow” is a towering piece of work; a thunderous, Patagonian tornado of a song, epic in scope and mighty in sound! The references to Greek Mythology in the Johns’ final studio album, Eat Your Sons return; Icarus with his “wings of wax” and the Minotaur, “with affection I remember the half-man, half-bull with his sleeve of bees”, and a celebration of “beauty, the mirror of love, in whatever form it may be found”, as well as some piercing, fuzzed up guitar and throbbing psychedelic soundscapes! Breathtaking. The album’s closer, “Musical Spirits” is a mysterious, foggy journey into the forests of the unknown; the magical world of the “musical spirits” who exist to create sounds which transport you to a better place, and telling you, the listener, to “join us.” I can certainly think of worse things to sign up for.
Do what You Wanna Do is a fantastic album; a tripped out, therapeutic and ultimately soul cleansing record, with a clarity of vision and musical adventurousness which a fair few younger artists would do well to adhere to! A flower power/punk/rave crossover album, John Hyatt is a true maverick, pushing the sonic boundaries with such force they may well end up on Saturn. Wonder if the sweet angel cake’s been found yet? If it has, let’s hope it didn’t end up in the wrong hands…..
The album can be downloaded or bought here here It’s only ÃÂ£2.50 for a download. ÃÂ£3.00 for the CD.
All words Sean Diamond. More articles by sean can be found here.