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Holy cow! That was the reaction to John 5’s first signature Tele, complete with Bigsby, bespoke pickups and a headstock you could paddle a canoe with. Six years later, the Squier J5 seems good value compared to the £849 original. But with a standard headstock, no vibrato and stock pickups, we can’t help but notice our crestfallen face in the mirrored pickguard.
OK, maybe we’re being unfair: plenty of good stuff has made it onto the J5, from the monster sustain of the heavy alder body to the flowing ‘C’ profile of the meaty maple neck.
But it’s ironic that 5’s most idiosyncratic feature is one we could live without. Sure, the twin volume controls let you perform 5’s trademark ‘kill’ effect, but no tone dial means it’s impossible to tweak the humbuckers, which can sound a bit woolly for his trademark ‘shred-grass’ (tellingly, his own Fender has a single-coil at the neck), and rely on you solving the problem with your amp’s EQ settings.
“This is just like my main Telecaster, exactly,” says 5 - but that’s not exactly true. If we hadn’t had our heads turned by the original, we’d probably be giving an unreserved thumbs-up to the watertight playability and meaty, unorthodox Telecaster sounds of the Squier J5, especially in light of the ultra-competitive price tag.
But in reality we have, and so we give this axe a respectful tip of the hat, bid it farewell and move on to our next A-lister.
Pros: Big sounds and solid feel.
Cons: It’s lost its original spark.
Buy: Squier J5 Telecaster is currently available from Andertons Music Co.