I've seen that phrase used so much in relation to Jonny on DBM2 so i finally wanna say something (so this isnt me bitching directly at you, more at that particular viewpoint so many people hold)
So, he gets hate from people and called one-dimensional for "only singing high" originally (DBM1/Emarosa1), purposely sings lower in his range on DBM2 to change things up & be "different", and he gets hate for doings so & his efforts get labelled "phoned in".
Dude can't win. Some of the bands best work (privilously poncheezied is so fucking sick from an instrumental point of view, my god) gets widely overlooked simply because Jonny isnt being "stereotypical Jonny". Harsh imo.
I hear you, although I don't think as many people hated on him "only singing high" as you think.
I think "What I Would Give To Be Australian" is a great example of him utilizing his full range. That chorus is huge because it has actual structuring and set-up from the verses - something he's failed at.
The complaints about Jonny on DBM1 and Emarosa were his lack of adherence to typical song structuring (though I actually enjoyed his approach on both records). I still think Emarosa's second LP and Isles & Glaciers were his best showings as a complete vocalist (though Vic wrote his parts on I&G).
So I get your point - I just think that if he didn't phone it in, he just made really bad choices next to a reinvigorated Jon Mess. Mess' parts sound huge, then Jonny sounds like he almost forgot he was supposed to sing. In regards to both Jonny's talent and songwriting chops, I think DBM2 is his undisputed worst showing, especially considering how late it was in his career.