Well, as a guy who listened to a lot of heavy metal in the ’80s, this record blew my mind. And let’s face it: a steady diet of metal gets boring. But boring Smash was not, and One Bad Pig was not only fun but also rocked really hard. And the way the punk band pieced together highly entertaining songs was brilliant.
I mean, Isaiah 6 was unforgettable, thanks to a great thrashing groove and Cary “Kosher” Womack’s screaming. The record kicks off with Godarchy which set the table nicely for what followed. And the grooves are down right infectious. The guitar riff on People Cry Out is great. At times, the album rips along at a blistering pace. Take A Flying Leap has always been a personal favorite, and I’m Not Getting Any Older is right up there too. But Smash the Guitar and the whacky Looney Tune, which pokes fun at the band’s “stupid” name, are also must listens.
What amazes me all these years later is just how great this record is from start to finish. There really isn’t a bad track on Smash, which was high on screams and always entertained. It certainly set the blueprint for Swine Flew, which didn’t disappoint “Pig” fans either. Some of One Bad Pig’s novelty had worn off by the time I Scream Sunday came out, but the band had one heck of a run – and were absolutely brilliant in concert. Smash could very well be the best Christian punk record ever recorded. It’s certainly lost none of the entertainment value it had when I first bought it in 1989.
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.
Christian music’s friendly punk rockers really pieced together one heck of an album in 1986. Gut Level Music was a welcome jolt of raw, yet melodic rock from the Mike Stand fronted trio that wasn’t shy about its faith. It was a superb follow up to When You’re A Rebel, a record that established the Altar Boys as a viable punk rock outfit.
Gut Level Music, though, was a far more memorable effort. It was a quality record from beginning to end, and somehow the band pulled off a cover of Donna Summer’s Unconditional Love. However, it’s the Altar Boys straight-shooting style on songs such as the title track, I’m Not Talking About Religion and I Question It that really is the band’s forte. And you can’t talk about Gut Level Music without lauding the way the record ends, with Final Hour setting up the closer Life Begins at the Cross. Both songs are amazing and, for sure, it’s gospel 101 for listeners who haven’t grown up in church. For sure, Gut Level Music is an important record from the mid-’80s Christian scene, and without doubt, it was also the band’s best.
Branded is the definitive Undercover record, the one in which happy-clappy Jesus songs ran headlong into the ins and outs of life. It’s the result of faith tested by fire, of life lived outside the vacuum of church culture where one is forced to make sense of how to live in the world while not being of it.
And it was a breath of fresh air in terms of honesty. Christian, yes, but I’m Just a Man seems to sum up the response that hey, we’re all sinners. Branded is not always an easy listen. There’s a stark fury and ragged honesty on Darkest Hour, an emotional, confessional plea, and the song that is the highlight of the record. Musically, the record flirts with new wave such as on the keyboard-driven The Fight for Love, but also plays it hard and heavy, no more so than on the pounding thrash beat of Tears in Your Eyes.
For sure, Branded is a verified Christian rock classic. It takes on emotional toll on the listener, who is taken to various heights and depths as the music rises and falls, all in the capable, talented hands of Undercover.
1. I’m Just A Man 2. The Fight For Love 3. Where Can I Go? 4. Tears In Your Eyes 5. Pilate 6. Build A Castle 7. Cry Myself To Sleep 8. Prelude (instrumental) 9. Darkest Hour 10. Interlude (instrumental) 11. Come Away With Me 12. If I Had A Dream
This was a record that caught the Christian music industry off guard. It was loud, it was brash and it was incredibly good, a blast of raw punk rock with shades of funk, reggae and hardcore. It had it all, and there really wasn’t anything like it at the time.
The record begins with the unforgettable Kill The Sarx, a furious, frenzied track that clocks in just under 1:30. Scaterd Few immediately rushes headlong into the amazing While Reprobate, which I’ve always thought is the best song on the record. But there’s so much other good stuff. U is a haunting, thrashing, runaway train-epic that is proceeded by the acoustic instrumental As the Story Grows. The record then breaks off into the all-out reggae number A Freedom Cry. DITC has to be one of the greatest old-school Christian punk rock songs ever recorded. The album closes with Kill The Sarx II (Apocalypse), a lounge music-inspired number that features random vocal samples and singing, that veers off into a horror-like soundtrack. It’s perhaps the perfect closer to the record.
Allan Aguire’s howling, yelping and high-pitched vocals give Scatered Few a unique sound, while the rhythm section is absolutely searing. For sure, Sin is one of the greatest records to come out of the CCM scene in the early ’90s. There was little frame of reference for the music, which was influenced by everything from Bad Brains to Black Flag and Bob Marley. And the record holds up well. It continues to beg to be listened to to this day.
God Rules was a great album from one of the best alternative rock bands ever to grace the CCM scene. And God Rules was also the song that cemented Undercover’s status as punk rockers extraordinaire, and a band that didn’t shy away from matters of faith. One thing’s for sure, the band didn’t hide its light under a bushel, but proudly and loudly proclaimed that God not only rules, but also rocks!
And Undercover’s brand of new wave-ish punk rock never gets old, even if it has a slightly dated ’80s sound. That does nothing to kill my appreciation for the record, the second release in the Undercover catalogue and two records and three years removed from the classic Branded. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. God Rules is a celebration of faith, from the opener New Creation (“I’m a brand new 1!2! creation!”) right on through to the closer I Love God. In between, some of the highlights among the record’s 13 tracks include Jesus Girl and Wait A Minute. Like I said, it’s simple mostly three-chord stuff, but it’s good.
Undercover followed up God Rules with the darn good Boys and Girls Renounce The World in 1984. It was another doss of pure punk/new wavish pop, with a more mature sound that would come into full bloom in 1986. But more on that later.
1. New Creation
2. Closer To You
3. He Takes Care Of Me
4. I Still Want You
5. I Never Knew
6. Jesus Girl
7. His Love
8. Jesus For Me
9. Jesus Is The Best
10. I Am The Resurrection
11. God Rules
12. Wait A Minute
13. I Love God
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.