An indefatigable creative soul, Carl Johns was the sparkplug that catalyzed a lot of indie-leaning pop-rock activity in these parts for many years. Geographically he's moved on, but a number of the musical interests he harbored here in Wisconsin remain on We Can Build an Island, his latest release under the Charlemagne moniker.
Among these is a penchant for tuneful guitar music that hints at bigger things than its garage-quality sound might first indicate. The roiling lead track, "Crushes," is a case in point. Falling somewhere between the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers, the song's built on a propulsive, snare-heavy drum part that gets extra juice from some insistent tambourine work.
It careens into another intensity when Johns half-yells "I don't write songs for lovers/I write songs for saints!" in the opening bars, and things get better from there, as he expresses the mad wonderment -- and more important, loss of control -- that romantic infatuation brings. In less skillful hands, the song would be just so much hormonal bleating, but Johns is a far more refined artist than that.
Instead of giving way to confused virility, he gives a pointed seminar on the pluses and minuses of both young love and ramshackle garage pop. Yup, it's a very cool trick.
An MP3 of the track are available in the related downloads at right. More music by the group is available at its MySpace page. Saturday, September 22 marks Johns' return to Madison, when Charlemagne plays with The Grizzlies and Icarus Himself at the King Club.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.