Jon Brion has made a name for himself as a go-to producer and film score composer for over 20 years now. Producing albums for artists as diverse as Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Kanye West, and Spoon. And his film score credits include directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, Michel Gondry, and Charlie Kaufman. He’s a musical wizard and his reputation precedes him.
But before the production and scoring gigs, Brion was an aspiring singer/songwriter in L.A. with dreams of releasing albums of his own. Starting in the early 90s taking over for Jason Falkner in the power pop band Jellyfish, then a year later forming The Grays with none other than Falkner for a one and done power pop masterpiece called Ro Sham Bo. Then, after producing albums by Aimee Mann, Elliot Smith, and Fiona Apple it seemed his debut release was imminent.
Meaningless was recorded mostly by Brion alone in the late 90s and was ready for release just in time for Y2K(if you don’t know, look it up.) But the label didn’t know what to do with it and its blend of power pop and eclectic songwriting so the album had an extremely limited release in 2001, then shelved. After 20 years the album is getting reissued and the recognition it so deserves. It seems it’s not so Meaningless after all.
If you’re familiar with Jon Brion and his “sound”, then this album will be like a conversation with an old friend, one you thought lost to time. If you’re not, then dive in head first and enjoy it. From the lovelorn opener “Gotta Start Somewhere” that blossoms into orchestral heights to the frenetic future pop of “I Believe She’s Lying” with its light speed tempo and stacked harmonies. “Meaningless” rings with touches of Rhett Miller, Red Kross, and Posies glee.
One of my favorites here is the shuffle minor key pop of “Ruin My Day” which touches on the majestic pop of Harry Nilsson and Eric Carmen. Piano, strings, and Brion’s distinctive voice come together beautifully. And tipping his hat to the power pop masters Cheap Trick, Brion closes the album with a haunting and dreamy cover of their classic “Voices”.
Meaningless is an album that should have gotten its due over 20 years ago. Sadly it was misunderstood and left to languish in cult status. Now, Jon Brion can be appreciated as the songwriter supreme he truly is. Meaningless truly is a lost classic.