God’s Computer has evolved a lot since I listened to their first album and did an interview with Liam O’Hera about a year ago. I want to say upfront that while the vibe of God’s Computer’s newest album, John Wayne, wasn’t totally to my taste, I am impressed with the progress that Liam has achieved, and I’m supremely excited about where they’re going. Liam just has such a punk, DIY mentality that I know he’s going to make it big, whether other people like it or not. On John Wayne, God’s Computer blends genres including rap, pop, punk, metal, emo, and grunge in a wacky way to create a dizzying, angsty, and frankly annoying album. Liam’s vibe is extremely unique and I think, with time, he’ll create a startling masterpiece. However, I don’t think he’s there yet. That being said, God’s Computer is unforgivingly bizarre, and I commend Liam for that.
The first track, “The Jockey” is like a soundscape for a cyberpunky wasteland. It reminds me of that 1984 Macintosh commercial with Anya Major– dystopian and futuristic, God’s Computer indeed. This was a cool, unique, well-produced song and I wish they leaned into this epic, godly sound a lot more on the album. It could have been like a Ye-esq post-punk Satanic Slapper (or, Bible Banger if you prefer). It’s a tight, creative, and easily recognizable song, but not one that I would add to the playlist because it’s just so… much.
The second track on John Wayne is titled “Jump” with a resounding dirty post-punky/metal vibe as primarily the repeated mantra, “Everybody jump in the air” varied throughout the song. The song feels greasy and gross, kind of like if Swans and Buzzcocks had a baby that was mangled & deformed. The vocals are just icky. It’s sort of tight though– I wouldn’t add it to a playlist but I enjoyed the listen.
“John Wayne” (the song) sounded like a xanned out Eminem rapping on a shreddy Fallout Boy beat. There’s a crazy guitar loop that sounds extremely professional, it seems like the beats being bangers is just par for the course with God’s Computer at this point. The flow’s there, but the lyrics are just boring as hell. They’re all about flexing like John Wayne and drinking/acting/being a badass/etc. Maybe that’s the point because the track is about hyper-masculine John Wayne who doesn’t ever talk about his feelings and just does so much shit. I dunno, it’s kind of a bop but I just think the lyrics are just kind of repetitive and boring.
“Red (In My Head)” is a grunge/rap/shred rock track that continues the post-apocalyptic subtle cyberpunky vibe weaved sporadically throughout John Wayne. I like the chorus here, it’s catchy and sounds good, sort of like a modern Kurt Cobain. The first verse was alright but the second one… eckh, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It was so fucking angsty it made me gag. This song is not my vibe though so maybe that’s just my personal taste.
“Bad Fortune Cookies” is a pretty good premise for a song. God’s Computer was losing me in the last one but this track is super silly. The chorus is hyper-popped so intensely that it becomes annoying immediately, but that’s kind of the fun of it. It sort of reminds me of Spongebob singing his little sponge heart out– I enjoyed it, I’m not sure if it was ironic enjoyment or genuine enjoyment, but it was fun nonetheless. I wish that God’s Computer leaned harder into the history of the fortune cookie, I think that’d make for more interesting lyrics but whatever it’s just another silly song, I enjoyed it enough.
Since they don’t talk about the history of the fortune cookie & I was interested, I will. If you’re interested in fortune cookies, according to the Library of Congress, fortune cookies were being mass produced in 1914 by a Japanese man named Makoto Hagiwara at the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden (fire eats & vibe btw, check it out if you visit SF). He started by stuffing fortunes into tsuijura senbei (fortune, rice cracker) folded by hand (SF Heritage). Eventually, Hagiwara, with the help of Benkyodo Candy Factory, created the modern fortune cookie as we know it today. However, in 1983 a Chinese-American named David (Tsung) Jung, owner of the Hong Kong Noodle Factory in Los Angeles, claimed that he had the idea first in 1918, handing out fortune cookies stuffed with passages from the Bible to unemployed people. That’s a cute story but that math doesn’t seem to work out whatsoever. Regardless, Jung went to the courts and Judge Hanlon ruled in favor of Hagiwara. So, the Japanese companies primarily ruled the fortune cookie industry, until 1942, when Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, imprisoning people of Japanese descent into internment camps. Now, the top manufacturers are all Chinese and/or American companies. At the top of the food chain, we have Wonton Food Inc., a Chinese-American company headquartered in Brooklyn making 4.5+ million cookies a year (wiki). The other two top companies are Bailey International and Peking Noodle. No wonder fortune cookies aren’t served in Japanese restaurants anymore.
That’s the first easily traceable fortune cookie story. However, there are countless inconclusive reports of senbei, just like what Hagiwara started with, being eaten throughout many provinces of Japan with fortunes added to them for a wide variety of reasons– it’s hard to track down the actual origin of tsuijura senbei in Japan.
And on we go to the 6th track of the album, “Never the First Apple”. It has a Lil Peep & Machine Gun Kelly vibe– it’s alright. Tight ass title, but was about the only highlight for me. Again this isn’t my go-to type of music so I wouldn’t expect to like it, and I certainly don’t hate it, it’s just meh. The track has an epic gothcore vibe and depicts “never falling off the tree,” or never maturing enough to love or date someone. The vocal effects were pretty cool, it’s not my vibe but it might be yours, dear reader.
“Pink Bubblegum Clouds” is a pop-punk song that seems to be about an ex who chewed a bunch of pink bubble gum and made gum bubbles. That’s all I got. I didn’t really understand the blue/green bubble gum stuff. I was hoping it’d be about Bubblegum Princess from Adventure Time but it’s definitely not, that was just wishful thinking.
“Disguise” is an angsty tune about having a disguise to hide your true self. That’s all I got for that one.
“The Last Line” is maybe about living a fictional life due to your dissociation from reality from drugs? I think that’s reading into it too much. Or maybe how stories all start to sound the same after a while? Nah that’s too profound. Or maybe it’s just simply about how God’s Computer borrowed a book from a friend and just got the last line. Maybe, but that seems too simple and doesn’t really fit. Or is it a mild Don Quixote-esq books become real-life kind of thing? Mmmm, doubtful. I don’t know. But maybe that’s the point. It’s such a chaotic and fucked up song that I really want to like and read into it but it’s just too cringe-- I just can’t, I don’t understand where it’s coming from. It’s kind of like it came from the ether– it’s so much and so little at the same time. And, of course, Liam brings back the annoying Spongebob vocals in a big way on this track. Also, it kind of annoyed me that “The Last Line” is the second to last song, but whatever, it’s frustratingly funny.
“The Owl” is a pretty sick, chill song. It’s a weird one, but I enjoyed it. The piano melody is super clear and the vocals almost act as a guitar, or another instrument buried in the background– again great production from God’s Computer. It has a melodic, almost punk-lullaby-type vibe. I found it to be a fantastic end to the album and a pretty cool song overall.
All listened to & written about, this is an alright album. It’s not my vibe in the first place, so it’s a losing battle. I didn’t really get what the point of a majority of the songs was, other than to release some surface-level punk angst, which is tight, but it felt like it could have been so, so much deeper and God’s Computer was so close to getting somewhere more profound. Liam’s instrumentals are all extremely impressive and professional sounding, and they’re at a theoretically unique intersection of rap/metal/punk/pop– I just think it comes off as edgy rather than punk, but I guess what’s the difference in the end? I don’t know, I’m torn. I didn’t really love John Wayne but maybe I’m getting old. The other main complaint I had was that I wanted the album to be more God’s Computer. More sci-fi, more dystopian, more cyberpunk… like that first track, “The Jockey”, I felt like that was leading to a futuristic punk sort of sounding album. The rest of the album is different though, which is fine, just not what I wanted. While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend John Wayne, it is interesting and if you like weird music maybe you’ll get a kick out of it. And I really do think God's Computer has a lot of promise-- I just don't think Liam is there yet. Maybe you’ll like it a lot more than me, I fucking hate Blink-182 so maybe I’ve just self-reporting this whole article.
And so, my search for El Dorado continues...
If you're interested in seeing God's Computer live, Liam has a few gigs lined up in Kansas. God's Computer's next performance is coming up on January 9th at Howdy in Kansas City. To follow God's Computer for more updates, check out their Instagram: @godscomputerband