Optimistic singer-songwriters tend to carpool together in a lane of innocuous and trite music.
If this were a hard and fast rule Room for Squares would probably be pulled over for reckless endangerment. The album rides the line between following the caravan and diverging into John Mayer’s own aesthetic road. Room could have easily been a remodeled manifesto of the mid-’90s – the Duncan Sheik emulsion of lyrical gloom and silver linings. But at times, Mayer timidly merges toward the offramp, choosing to take a scenic byway toward a less-traveled destination, camera in hand.
Room is full of your typical self-reflexive, “complex” emotions, dealing mostly with loves lost, found and never had. “Your Body is a Wonderland” slips into overt woman worship, while “Love Song for No One” and “Back to You” make perfect fodder for the next John Cusack movie, as they explore unrequited love and obsession.
Lloyd Dobler returns, boombox raised, with a new serenade to send the ladies’ hearts aflutter.
Mayer would convince the listener that he too is dumbstruck by the cudgel of love – almost as hard to believe as Cusack reprising awkward teen angst. On “No Such Thing,” he claims to have “…never lived the dreams of the prom kings,” but his all-American Hilfiger look is probably more blessing than curse. Sell it as he might, the nice guy/underdog air he attempts to create works against plausibility.
Still, Mayer’s ability to create imagery is stronger than most and lacks the random snapshot approach of, say, Dishwalla or The Wallflowers. He has a pretty good eye. Perhaps next time he’ll invest in a better camera. This one is rather disposable.