Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
Irony? Try this! The most accomplished example of Christian Brit pop is delivered by an American band. All Star United have dived into the same pool of late '60s musical influences as Oasis, Blur et al and created a mother and father and for that matter the sister, brother and first cousin of an album! United have blended influences into a style of their own with Ian Eskelin, for it is he who is this band's driving force, contributing the deft lyrical touches that speak louder than the fine music. Sometimes poppy, sometimes rocky, "Drive" and "Torn" both rely on some powerful guitar to create a strong vibe. The former gently evangelistic, the latter a portrait of the agony of indecision. "Smash Hit" is an honest look at the cynical marketing practices of the cynical sections of the Christian music biz as they exploit artists' spirituality. Clearly the band are as adventurous in their lyrics as they are in the production of the album which incorporates a variety of cookie sounds including Matt Slocum from Sixpence contributing not guitar but some tasty cello on "Saviour Of The Universe". Two tunes are likely to grab your attention on first listen. They are "Tenderness"' and "Angels" which are both invested with enormously potent hook lines. The former jangles along, building to a huge singalong chorus. Personally, I love the way out tunes, the wackiest is the wonderful "La La Land" where superficial, no brain spirituality is mercilessly lampooned in Ben Folds Five style. Musically, "Beautiful Thing" sounds like a nice, solid pop tune but underneath the veneer there lies a sneering attack on the joys of materialism. If you've been familiar with Ian Eskelin's previous work, this is a mighty and brave leap forward and he's taken with him his knack for strong melodic songwriting and married it to a musical attack that should rocket the United to championship contenders. These guys mean business and this is a serious nomination for the album of the year. There are some summer concerts in the pipeline so once you check this out, you can see the band live. As for me, this is the soundtrack for summer '97. Don the shades, wind down the windows, pump up the volume and drive!
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