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The Swirling Eddies

Outdoor Elvis


Harvest Rock Syndicate 1989/90
4 1/2 points out of 5
by Brian Q. Newcomb

They're back!!! That's right, just when you thought it was safe to go into the back corner of your favorite Christian bookstore where they hide the rock music, those Swirling Da boys are back and this time they're pissed off. (Look, if that last phrase offended you, please don't think about buying this one, it's not for you.) That's right boys and girls, after over 15 years in Christian music the Men from A.M.O.S. are sick and tired and they're not going to take it anymore.
Perhaps it's that last year's Swirling Eddies debut sold more than any other Da project, maybe it was that they weren't invited back to Cornerstone after becoming the high point in three straight years, maybe they've been reading over all that hate mail they've received over the years (excerpts of which make up many of the comments in verses for the song "Elimination [The Band That Won't Go Away]"), because Outdoor Elvis is a record that humorously and pointedly explores the place of Terry Taylor and company in this mixed up world and the Evangelical ghetto where their music has been cloistered. They know how some out there will respond ("Knee Jerk”), but for now it seems they needed to make an album for themselves, and some of us. And you know, it's the meanest, nastiest album to come down the pike since Doppelganger, and it's very likely the most fun I've had listening to a record this year.
Oh don't miss the point, of course this is a spiritually correct record. It's just that the cultural confines that impinge on artists recording from a faith perspective can be debilitating. Here Taylor, backed by Tun Chandler, David Raven, Greg Flesch, Rob Watson, Jerry Chamberlain and new Eddy, Gene Eugene, seem willing to accept the fact that they don't quite fit in to the expectations of some, and they make the best of it.
"Rubber Sky" reveals they are familiar with the role and punishment of prophets: “bounce him off the rubber sky/and he’ll come back and taunt you/sling shot snap/brings him back/a lover's eyes that haunt you... he'll be returning-a glutton for more/you cannot tell if he's devil or angel/he drank with the sinners, he hung with the thieves/he stayed out so long that he wore out his welcome/you smiled kindly and asked him to leave." They are used to going against the grain ("Driving In England"), but the rejection always hurts more than expected. The best revenge, some say is living well and Taylor writes "they say I'm wasting away/a star-crossed lover doomed for tragedy/not true, baby not true/I will arrive/I'll realize my full potential,” to express that all that has passed is of worth.
With 21 tracks (two are just filler), Taylor seems to have been influenced more than a little by Elvis Costello, although the LP's title refers to The King, who observed in “This Town:” "You're nobody in this town, til everyone thinks you're a bastard.” Here the Eddies blast TV preachers again ("Attack of the Pulpit Masters"), Christian metal bands that wear spandex ("All The Way To Heaven"), Christian colleges and folk who use external rules to discern spirituality (“Hide The Beer The Pastor's Here") and folk who have a small, culturally defined understanding of God ("Yer Little Gawd"). “I'm just a cynic," Taylor sings in 'Hell Oh,' “talkin' 'bout a white bleach sepulchre/I'm bringing ants to your picnic." Which may well describe Outdoor Elvis, it's ants in the church's pants.
But all is not just doom, gloom and cynicism. There's “Blowing Smoke” a love song written for Taylor's wife, “Billy Graham,” which speaks of the TV pulpiteer's integrity, “Hold Back The Wind, Donna," with it's encouragement to stand strong, "Urban Legends," which holds high the importance of telling the truth, and “Strange Days,” a song of hope. Not to mention “Arthur Fhardy's Yodeling Party," which is more or less self-explanatory.
Tired of the same ol same ol? Want to laugh a little, cry a little, live a lot? Are you not afraid to face the music, even some of the best rock 'n' roll around? Maybe a little cynical, and a little hopeful? Me too, well this album's for us. But don't tell anybody, they’ll assume we're not very spiritual.