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Inconsistent as it is, though, John Mellencamp mixes it up enough musically to counteract some of its thematic flaws, tossing in looping and sample effects, various Indian instruments, and keyboard embellishments with a playfulness that never distracts from the songs. The effect is that of a folky, acoustic framework with an electric current coursing through its foundation. While frustratingly erratic, John Mellencamp is an often compelling assessment of where the artist has been and where he's headed -- even if that means going in circles.

-- Hobart Rowland

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