Friday, September 7, 2012

Classic Album Review - Steve Taylor - I Predict 1990

I Predict 1990 was one of the first Christian albums I owned, definitely one of the first ten. God’s hand was most certainly a part of this. The music was quirky, intelligent, varied, humorous and just plain good. This album soaked into my thirsty brain, probably causing irreparable damage and if that Steve Taylor had any money I’d sue the pants off him. But instead I’ll give it another listen. Or watch. The album came with a video album with a video for almost every song. He ran out of money before he ran out of songs. I should dig out that VHS tape and … wait… it’s probably all on YouTube!

Anyway, the album starts with “I Blew up the Clinic Real Good”, a saxophone-packed rocker about an ice cream truck driver that blows up abortion clinics so that we won’t run out of “youngsters” so he won’t be out of a job. During the late 80s there were some big fights about abortion in evangelical Christianity and this song hit hard. Now the sub-culture has, for the most part, come to terms with this atrocity, this plank-eye unfortunately included. “What Is The Measure of Your Success?” is another hard hitter, a kind of whispy rocker with an amazing bass line and 80s synth tones. Speaking of synthesizers, while present on the album this is definitely a guitar rock album with touches of keyboards, unlike Taylor’s earlier albums which were much more synth-heavy. “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better” was one of my favorites. It’s got a great bass line, a kind of frantic, tumbling feel, steel drums (probably fake) and a crazy fiddle going completely insane. The lyrics hit home because I was just heading off into the belly of the beast: a secular university. The video was of Taylor walking around with multiple cameras on sticks strapped to himself so that he was captured by a dozen angles. These were all smashed together somehow. See for yourself! Okay, so maybe there were only four cameras but in the late 80s it seemed like a dozen.

After three scorchers they show things down with “Babylon.” This one was never a favorite but it’s got plenty of 80s atmosphere and some gosh darned good lyrics. “Jim Morrison’s Grave” is another killer track, taking a critical view of our hero worship with lyrics of “I get weary, Lord I don't understand / How a seed get strangled in the heart of a man / While the music covers like an evening mist / Like a watch still ticking on a dead man's wrist / Tick away.” “Svengali” features another nervous rhythm, saxophones, and quite a bit of that late 80s vibe. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounds good, though. “Jung and the Restless” was just okay with a funny spoken word bit in the middle and subdued electric guitars elsewhere. “Innocence Lost” had more sax (oh yeah… the era!) and a spacious, slightly creepy while “A Principled Man” merges in Celtic influences, urging, challenging and encouraging the listener to stand up for your beliefs. The final track, “Harder To Believe Than Not To,” is one of the best. Opening with operatic vocals singing a line by Rachmaninoff (who the liner notes credit to something like “I’d dead so I can sue you”, even though by the time his widow would probably have had recourse) this fragile song of shimmering strings and flutes is completely unlike anything else on the album. It’s pretty much unlike any other song I’ve heard, chamber music of a sort, I suppose. This song was a great encouragement to my early years, warning against those who “tossed away the cloak that [they] should have mended.” I Predict 1990 is an album that is greater than the sum of its parts, arriving in my life with exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. Thanks, Steve!

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