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.