Onelinedrawing is a tricky beast. It's basically one guy, Jonah Matranga. His popularity, while not on the level of similarly-minded semi-acoustic troubadours, grows with each passing day and each MP3 passed through instant message. Kids go to Onelinedrawing shows for the experience of participation - Jonah stops mid-song to explain things, combats and even seems to encourage heckling, and always allows his little R2D2 to make an appearance to make every member of the audience feel special.
The thing is, every show is the same. Every single one. Jonah plays the same Onelinedrawing songs every night, interspersed with the same New End Original, Far, and Deftones songs worked into the set as well. He stops at the same points in each song and says the same things. His interaction is reproduced night in and night out, in dingy clubs across America. He talks a lot of talk about how he doesn't neccessarily want success; then he signs a million-dollar recording deal with his new band Gratitude. He talks a lot about the "sliding scale" of his merchandise, letting kids "pay what you want" for an item. But one look at his webstore shows that the cheapest you can pay for a t-shirt or a full-length is 10 dollars - the price one would generally normally pay anyway from any other band at a show or through mail-order. Jonah has formed a guise of childlike innocense over something he surely knows is a career, not an art.
The Volunteers continues down the faux-confessional path that Jonah has been wandering for a number of years. You have the "rock" song in "We Had A Deal" [which sounds identical to New End Original, frankly]. You have the "funny" song in "Oh, Boys." You have the "bearing my soul for inspection" song in "Stay." You have the "quirky drum-machine" song in "Over It." And that's all you need to know, because odds are these are the only songs he'll ever play off this record live [and "Stay" might actually be pushing it].
The masquerade of the fan-artist relationship continues on this disc with Jonah actually recording a number of fans for the chorus of "Over It" - what better way to guarantee at least a few hundred copies sold, right? He also includes numerous raw demos of a number of these songs on the enhanced CD portion, if that is your thing. The extensive liner notes from both himself and Geoff Rickly of Thursday seem hell-bent on convincing people of just how good of a dude Jonah is. Now I'm not trying to convince you otherwise - I am sure he is an inherently good person with a number of redeeming characteristics. I just don't find the constant duping of an impressionable fanbase the way to go about acheiving popularity. Kids view Jonah as their triumphant underdog, when he represents "the man" just as much as anyone else. It's the ultimate in irony when he sings on "Livin' Small":
"Yea, but business is a lot like love and
business is a lot like friendship isn't it?
Yea, well either way, if you just go out
looking for what's rich and hot
You'll end up with a piece of shit."
I listen to this CD and enjoy it, but I also understand that the majority of what Jonah sings about just is not true. If you go into it with the mindset of "this is a pop record," you'll be fine. If you're looking for anything more life-changing than that, you're in the wrong place.
We Had A Deal
Over It [clip]