Picks and Pans Review: This Perfect World

updated 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Freedy Johnston

Freedy Johnston's second album, 1992's wise and witty Can You Fly, landed on enough critics' year-end best-of lists to establish him as one of the most gifted songwriters on the pop scene. Some feared that Johnston's move from an indie label (Bar/ None) to the majors would somehow compromise his spare style. Not to worry. Except for the welcome dash of punk intensity provided by producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins), this third effort is still rock and roll rooted in folk simplicity. Layered with details and sly asides, Johnston's richly melodious songs are a sneaky breed that demand, and reward, repeated listening. Sung in a reedy tenor that evokes the wide-open spaces of his native Kansas, with lyrics that make you feel like he has peered into your own backyard, these haunting vignettes about loners, lovers and losers add up to a vision that is at once innocent and penetrating. And, dare we say it, they actually deserve to be called art. (Elektra)

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