Rock / Alternative
Artist: P.J. Olsson
Produced by: Brash Music
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Gazing at the cover photo of Beautifully Insane, one might think that P.J. Olsson is a Rick Springfield look-alike. Olsson plays a guitar and sings, but the similarities end there. P.J. Olsson’s music is hard to completely pin down – shades of rock and roll mixed with psychedelic funk is my best attempt. Taking a look at the flip side of the CD case, the picture of the smiley face guy in a uniform gives you a clue of what you might be listening to. The titles of the songs – Visine, Medicated, The Whistle Song – might give you another.
Upon hearing the first few tracks of Beautifully Insane, I started to wonder if I was not insane myself, as I was determined to get through this concoction of trippy lyrics and equally trippy music. Reading P.J. Olsson’s press material, this album was nothing like what I expected. Having made an appearance on David Letterman, scoring a song on the Dawson’s Creek Soundtrack, and playing with the likes of Train, Nelly Furtado, and more, I expected a more straight forward sound. True, Train’s lyrics can sometimes leave you scratching your head, but never as much as those of Visine: Had a dream ‘bout Joseph Stalin / Was his son haulin’ out of Moscow / On a jellybean with wheels.” Or how about those of Thinking Man: “My couch is made of thoughts / My car is made of feet / My house is made of bone / My windows made of eyes / My roof is the thinking man…” The beginning tracks of Beautifully Insane leave you wondering if P.J. Olsson wasn’t partaking in the marijuana he continually discusses in his songs when writing them.
That being said, there are some excellent tracks on this album. P.J. Olsson has a beautiful voice and when he isn’t over-mixing the music, the melodies are extremely enjoyable. Ocean of Blue tells the tale of a girl who has left home in search of a dream, only to find that the dream is far out of reach. It would seem P.J. Olsson’s voice is well suited to ballads as witnessed in the tracks Perfect and Tomorrow. The beauty of the lyrics, combined with that voice, and some equally beautiful music are enough to make you forgive the weirdness of the beginning tracks. However, somehow Olsson just has to add some psychedelic nonsense in these tracks. At the very end, the listener witnesses something equal to the nonsensical talk found at the very end of songs like Yellow Submarine and I Am the Walrus. This virtually ruins the mood the song originally put you in.
Beautifully Insane is a rather strange compilation, obviously influenced by the music of the 60s. I loved 60s music – Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Dylan – they were all champions of that psychedelic sound. But they knew when it fit into their music and when it didn’t. Imagine Let It Be in funk mode – just not a good feeling to a track like that. P.J. Olsson has much to learn about when to add the funk and when to leave it alone. With only three or four songs out of twelve worth listening to, Beautifully Insane is an album tailor made for the bargain bins.