More than anything, Johnson says, it inspired him to simply attack his ideas head-on.

Clearly that worked. Candidate Waltz songs such as "Mercedes Blast" and "Iso-Residue" score for their sing-along-ability, for their clever wordplay, for their immediacy and, in a few cases, for their self-effacing nature. Perhaps no song highlights this as much as "All The Stalkers," a particularly Thin Lizzy-sounding track that finds Johnson singing the presumably pseudo-biographical tale of a band that, despite numerous mishaps, miraculously clicks particularly well with an audience one night. In many ways, it's the 12-years-later response to "Huge In Every City," from 1999's All The Falsest Hearts Can Try, which finds a band with an especially strong reputation failing to engage its audience during a particularly tragic show.

It's a stark change in songwriting perspective, no doubt, and perhaps a subtle admission from the career just-shy-of-the-radar performer about what constitutes success for him these days.

Centro-matic is still having fun.
Matt Pence
Centro-matic is still having fun.

Indeed, Johnson concedes, the thing that mostly keeps him going at this point is the luxury he has to both create and have his creations received—and consistently enough so that the latter still supports the former. That freedom to create has even led him and Pence to dabble in the visual arts. (Johnson painted the mural that eventually became Candidate Waltz's cover art.)

"And so long as that's the case," Johnson says, "we'll continue to create together in some capacity."

Given that his and his band's works are increasingly more creative each time, here's hoping that remains the case for the foreseeable future.

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