B.A. Johnston is a legend in these parts. For a self-proclaimed “failed showman” he’s been pretty successful, earning fans across Canada and a reputation for some ridiculous live shows. Based out of Hamilton (living in his mother’s basement, probably) he’s a regular fixture in the music scene and one helluva guy. “Hi Dudes!“, Johnston’s latest and eighth album, is a perfect example of everything he does best and continues the tradition of comedic folky rock set to ’80s synth and Nintendo-style electronica.
If you’ve never heard B.A. Johnston, you’re in for a treat. You’ll notice some fun beats and acoustic guitar, but you’ll quickly learn that passive listening is impossible. These are songs with lyrics you actually need to listen to. Why? Because they’re hilarious. Singing about video games, the Goonies, the joys of corporal punishment, and the intricate qualities of douchebags, Johnston throws out one funny quip after another. He’s more of a comedian than anything; the songs aren’t magically composed or overly complicated, but they are surprisingly well-written, melodic, and full of nostalgia. This is a sentimental look at life in the ’80s, a time of simplicity, ColecoVision and McDonald’s pizza, when smoking around kids was normal and spankings were encouraged. The lyrics are funny because they’re true, and as much as we laugh and shudder at the comparison of Bob Barker to a male Estelle Getty, we can’t help but agree.
It is these true lyrics and well-worded lines that also show Johnston’s depth as a songwriter. He’s hilarious, but he’s also insightful and sweet, and for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s these songs are a sentimental reminder of the childhoods we left behind. You’ll find yourself longing for arcade games and Grade 11 World Issues class (or skipping World Issues to go to an arcade), feeling a bit sad about getting older and having to go to work.
In the end, this is a great album that can be listened to again and again. Pardon some of the offensive language, and if you’re an Elmo fan you may want to stay away from “Sesame Street Fight”. But if you have a decent sense of humour (and especially if you know something about video games), you will enjoy these tracks.
Check out B.A. Johnston’s website for updates, show info and some hilarious postings by the man himself. You can pick up “Hi Dudes!” online (Zunior.ca or on iTunes), from Mammoth Cave Records, or from any of these stores: Dr Disc (Hamilton), Soundscapes (Toronto) and Bluestreak Records (Peterborough). You can also get it from the back of his mom’s minivan, but we won’t encourage that. Definitely get to a live show if you can but just a warning: don’t wear anything nice. You might get wet.