David Bowie

John Mellencamp

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 November, 1998, 12:00am

John Mellencamp - John Mellencamp (Columbia) He's unstoppable, John Mellencamp. Not even a heart attack a few years ago could dent his output, and here he is again, back with his 15th album as his parallel career as a painter continues to blossom.

Mellencamp has also been many other things to many men: local boy made good (he still lives close to his home town), rootsy rock 'n' roller, urban philosopher, video-director and Farm Aid organiser.

Although globally he'll never be more than a second-division Bruce Springsteen, after an early, misguided attempt to launch him as an American David Bowie he has always found his various niches.

The niche he fills best, as here, is that of the plain-speaking, less-than-saintly modern troubadour: the sharp-eyed minstrel of the working classes with a drink to hand and a tale to tell. He tells it with feeling, insight and a rugged grace, availing himself of some biblical imagery and putting his sense of humour to good use.

There's something of the Stones in his hard-edged industrial blues, a punk's sneer in his edgy country and even a dash of Dreadlock Holiday-vintage 10cc in his unlikely reggae leanings.

The forced end to Mellencamp's relentless rock 'n' roll lifestyle has given him more time for reflection, and the perceptive results are obvious. What it hasn't done is make him any less entertaining.