Jenny and Johnny – I'm Having Fun Now (2010)

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by Mark Saleski

These kind of pairings are not supposed to work. It goes against the laws of pop music nature. Take any number of well-known and successful musicians, put them together, stir, and what you usually get is something not even worth the time it takes to watch the product swirl down the drain. Yes, it’s the dreaded “Super Group.” Oh, sure there are some counter-examples, but not enough to even out things like Asia, GTR, and The Firm.

Now that I think of it, most of the combinations that have worked have been duos: Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb. (Note: I may or may not be joking about that last one.)

With Jenny and Johnny, not only can we mark another entry in the positive column, we get an album that manages to step away from the contributors’ history to form something completely different. This might indeed be Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, but there are only faint whiffs of the recorded output of Rice, Lewis, and Rilo Kiley to be heard here.

Instead, I’m Having Fun Now traffics in tight and heavily melodic power pop with a healthy dose of punky/garage-y attitude. Rice and Lewis’ vocals wind around each other like a modern day Exene and John Doe. There might be some darkness running through the lyrics (“Straight Edge Of The Blade” and “Big Wave” come to mind), but the music is a pure joy: jangling and chiming guitars, hooks galore (love rhythm the guitar on “My Pet Snakes”), and vocal harmonies that will have you ready to press “Play” as soon as the last chords of “Committed” come to a crashing halt.

It’s tough to describe musical “chemistry” without lapsing into cliché, so I won’t even try. Just give I’m Having Fun Now a listen and you tell me if Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice don’t sound like they were meant to be together. Naysayers, go back to your Asia albums. There’s probably some joke to be made here about the “heat of the moment,” but I am not spoiling my good mood with that sorta hooey.

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