1. Michael Knott: Screaming Brittle Siren

SIREN
BLONDE VINYL, 1992

This is it. The record that blew my mind in the early ’90s as a young adult trying to find my way in a harsh, cruel world. And Screaming Brittle Siren was the soundtrack to the inner angst I felt. Well, that’s probably reading into it a bit too much. Let’s just say I have a soft spot for Screaming Brittle Siren, which is arguably the greatest Michael Knott solo record and perhaps the best Christian rock record ever made.

For starters, the music was raw, the lyrics were poignant and personal, and the instrumentation (yay, cello!) was breathtaking. It’s an adventurous 13 tracks, with the unforgettable, uncomfortable and sensational Crash and Burn. And I love how the record starts with Miles From Shame, which is such a great track. Then, three songs in, you have Apocalypse Lips, which I’ve heard someone refer to as their favorite Michael Knott song ever. Four songs in and you get the haunting Brittle Body with a whole lot of that sweet, sweet cello. It’s magnificent, and segues nicely into Blood on My Hands. There’s just no slow down on this record. The back side of the album is highlighted by the superb Draw The Line, while Gold Silver Soup and Silk is one of the coolest instrumentals you’ll ever hear. But the record would not be complete with I Am No Christ, one of the greatest Knott songs ever put to tape. And I absolutely love how, despite all doom and gloom of Knott’s inner torment and agony over sin, doubt and faith, the record ends on a hopeful high with Shine a Light.

Yup, Screaming Brittle Siren is a great, great record deserving of a fair amount of gushing over. Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion. But if there was only one Christian rock record I could take with me to that proverbial deserted island, this would be it.

 

5. Lifesavers Underground: Shaded Pain

LSu-shaded
Frontline, 1987

Whoa. Where do you start with this record, the classic Lifesavers Underground album that yielded a handful of Mike Knott’s iconic songs. We’re talking Die Baby Die, Plague of Flies and Shaded Pain. The record bleeds with punk-rock honesty, with haunting lyrics and vocals. It’s also raw and full of angst, a moody, brooding rock record that doesn’t disappoint.

And while the three aforementioned songs are absolutely outstanding, Tether To Tassel has always been a favorite of mine, and Lonely Boy is oh so good. And the record would not be complete without More to Life, which features a great guitar riff and Knott’s voice alternating between high-pitched wailing and the near-whispered chorus line of “there’s something more to life.” In a word, brilliant. The song sets the stage beautifully for the showstopper Shaded Pain, which is stripped down to piano and accompanies Knott’s anguished singing.

Yup, Shaded Pain is definitely a don’t-miss record from Knott’s catalogue and the best of the Lifesavers/Lifesavors/L.S.Underground bunch. It has a garage-band feel to it, the kind of rough-around-the-edges punk flavour that adds to the record’s appeal. And it has Knott painting beautiful soundscapes with gritty lyrics and superb song structures. This is also definitely a record that only gets better with age.

 

28. Lifesavers: Poplife

(Blonde Vinyl, 1991)
(Blonde Vinyl, 1991)

Well, the thing about Mike Knott is that he really is a chameleon, which he sings about on Life of David. But I’m not talking about that type of chameleon, rather, his uncanny ability to play many generes, and not only do that, but do it well. Poplife was an enjoyable serving of simple-to-a-fault lo-fi surf rock, and I love the feel of this record. It has that beach vibe, that lying on your beach towel too-tired-to-get-up-and-go-in-the-water lazy day feeling.

Jet Plane just so happens to be one of my favorite Knott songs of all time. And It’s a Crazy Thing is another Knott gem, a song that translates well as an acoustic number too. At times the record sounds like the life was drained right out of Knott, who also released This is the Healing the same year. But the vibe works.

For sure, this is not one of Knott’s classics. There are other, better records in his discography. But for some reason this record has always struck my fancy, which means I’ve played it a lot. Like I said, the music itself is simple and laid back, with that too-lazy-to-get-up-off-the-couch-and-turn-the-channel mood you used to get in the days prior to the invention of the remote control. You may like Poplife, but chances are you’ll think it’s nothing special. But, in the true vibe of the record, whatever.

TRACKS:

  • I Don’t Know (Sister, Sister)
  • Queen Of The Captive
  • Jet Plane
  • Skate
  • It’s A Crazy Thing
  • Surf With God
  • Comin’ Up Roses
  • Lookin’ For A Suit
  • Surf With God (Reprise)

LISTEN HERE:

30. Michael Knott: Rocket and a Bomb

(Brainstorm Artists, 1994)
(Brainstorm Artists, 1994)

Out of all of Michael Knott’s records, this could easily be the funnest. One thing for sure, it displays Knott’s remarkable ability to tell stories through song. Rocket and a Bomb is a collection of tales gleaned from life experience, including the queasy recount of a woman who just might be cooking her husband. That song, Kitty , is one of the greatest cuts on the record. But it’s not alone.

There’s the unforgettable John Barrymore Jr., the melancholy Train, the depressing Make Me Feel Good and the outstanding title track, Rocket and a Bomb, which also serves as the album closer. The record is basically a stripped down version of Knott’s scathing musical assault, dominated by acoustic guitars and laid back beats.

As with many of Knott’s record, I played Rocket and a Bomb to death. This could quite possibly be my favorite album from Knott’s bulging discography, if not for the one that blew off my socks a couple years prior. But a rant about that record is forthcoming…

Tracks:
1. Jan the Weatherman (3:06)
2. Jail (3:44)
3. Make Me Feel Good (5:12)
4. Serious (4:07)
5 . John Barrymore Jr. (2:30)
6 . Train (5:28)
7. Bubbles (4:17)
8. Kitty (3:43)
9. Adrian (4:07)
10. Skinny Skins (4:31)
11. Rocket and a Bomb (5:06)

Listen Here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Rocket+And+A+Bomb/3869752

34. Alternative Worship: Prayers, Petitions, and Praise

(1994, Alarma Records)
(1994, Alarma Records)

Now, this was an alternative worship record that was explicitly named as such. Alternative Worship: Prayers, Petitions, and Praise was an album produced by none other than Michael Knott and featured members from the Aunt Bettys as well as Christian alt-rock heavyweights  Terry Scott Taylor (DA) and Gene Eugene (Adam Again).

The record is a collection of what can best described as melancholy worship songs. Although the album boasts some bright spots, its mostly sombre, yet hopeful. “River of Love” has always been my favorite song alongside “Shine.” There are also a pair of acoustic numbers that are absolutely brilliant. Knott sings accompanied by piano on “Call on You,” then acoustic guitar on “Never Forsaken.” Both songs typify the back half of the record, which is generally subdued and acoustic. There’s even a rendition of the traditional hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

This remains one of my favorite records to this day. It’s also another reminder of Knott’s versatility as a songwriter and musician, and another nod to just how good some of the music was that came from the fringes of the CCM scene in the early ’90s.

Tracks:

1. On My Feet Again
2. Windows
3. River of Love
4. Simple Man
5. Everything For Stormie
6. Shine
7. Call on You
8. Never Forsaken
9. Lamb of God
10. Holy, Holy, Holy
11. Within

Listen Here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Alternative+Worship+Prayers+Petitions+And+Praise+Disc+1/6406067

44. Aunt Bettys: Ford Supersonic

ford

The second and final record from yet another project fronted by Michael Knott, Ford Supersonic was another sonic blast of high-energy rock.  I never realized it at the time, but this Aunt Betty’s album was really a collection of demos. It sure doesn’t sound like it.

The band plays tight and the songs are mostly good, although it’s not all Grade A stuff. The best of the bunch include the opener Getting Normal, fan-favorite Rock Stars on H, and the absolutely sensational Widget Man. The fun acoustic song Popsicle Stick is a great “intermission” mid-way through the 12-track recording, as well as a nod to Knott’s solo work.

Ford Supersonic was my introduction to Aunt Bettys. The band had a released a decent self-titled debut a couple years earlier with high hopes of making it big. That never happened, but Aunt Bettys did leave us with some good music – and videos of a highly entertaining show at the Detroit Bar (which can be found on YouTube) that give fans something to remember them by.

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Getting Normal
  2. Two Timing Jack
  3. Movie Star
  4. Christine on Crystal
  5. Shoot Allison
  6. Widget Man  
  7. Popsicle Stick
  8. Local Supply
  9. Sugar Cane
  10. Rock Stars on H
  11. Ricky Racer
  12. Motor Queen

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Ford+Supersonic/5137257

51. L.S.Underground: The Grape Prophet

(Blonde Vinyl, 1992)
(Blonde Vinyl, 1992)

In a word, brilliant. The Grape Prophet is an allegorical rock opera by L.S. Underground, which was an offshoot of Michael Knott’s Lifesavors, Lifesavers and Lifesavers Underground. It’s brilliant storytelling through song, and a rocking good time at that. Even though it’s written in allegories, you can get the gist of what Knott is singing about, that being a particular church experience gone bad.

Translated into the song, the results are spectacular. Take The Fold for instance. The song is hard driving rock punctuated by Knott’s screamed lyrics in the chorus, before the song breaks away to the sweet refrains of “Come Into the Fold.” Ellis in the Orchard and the English Interpreter of English are two of the album’s best tracks, both of which are fuelled by snarling guitars. They are also among the more accessible songs. The Grape Prophet Speaks features outlandish prophetic words translated in plain English by Knott, all to the sound of a piano-filled soundtrack. On A Group of Prophets Predict the Pickers’ Future Without Them, the drums sound distorted and hypnotic, while the vocals are distant and somewhat chaotic.

The record also features a couple of instrumentals, Travels and Back to the Orchard, both of which add to the overall mood of the album. From start to finish, The Grape Prophet is a great record and is definitely most appreciated as a collection of 10 songs. It’s good stuff from Knott, whose productivity as a musician in the early ’90s is truly mind boggling.

TRACK LISTING:

1. Ellis in the Orchard (4:31)
2. Travels Instrumental (3:10)
3. The Fold (3:59)
4. Wino of the Red Is Stained (3:53)
5. The Grape Prophet Speaks (2:18)
6. English Interpreter of English (3:45)
7. Ellis Converses With the Prophets (3:13)
8. A Group of Prophets Predict the Pickers’ Future Without Them (3:36)
9. She Said (3:30)
10. Back to the Orchard Instrumental (4:39)

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/artist/L+S+Underground/1290272