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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Far more structured than earlier ventures, 1956 should push them out of the underground into greater mainstream acceptance. No, they haven't sold out. They're just better. Maturity coupled with spirituality always calls for better music, and 1956 is filled with great music.
You may ask, "What style of music do they play?" And that's hard to explain. For the most part 1956 is tricked out hip-hop, with evangelism in the lyrics. But they can't be stuck in the hip-hop category. That would be like saying Beck is an "alternative" performer. True, they do have a few tracks that are straight up San Diego hip-hop: "ill-mi-i", "3po soul", "pumpfake", "the peacemaker." But there is some lo-fi rock similar to Gogogo Airheart, or Guided By Voices in the songs: "sarpodyl", "judah", "sweet to my soul (white hot apostle mix)." There is also some drum and bass tracks: "sea monsters & gargoyles" (featuring guest MC Pigeon John), "red top" (featuring pish posh). So you can't nor should you try to categorize Soul-Junk because to do so, would defeat their purpose of being a band. It's their "free structured, no boundaries" style that makes them who they are. And as the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life."
The lyrics whether sung, or during a flow capture the sense of humor Soul-Junk has. Here is an example taken from the song "3po soul":
Just got kicked off the lecturn at a worship song summit/
But they're not just about humor, following the tradition of many Southern California bands, they make no effort to hide the fact that they are Christian. They name, proclaim, exclaim their faith all over the disc, encouraging the listener in their walk, and "subliminally" suggesting that they should enjoy it at the same time.
In closing, this is a great album. It's not too long for the new listener, and the variety it has should keep the attention of the most finicky fan. Soul-Junk is coming on strong, so don't be the only kid on the block who hasn't heard "1956"
Justin W. Jones 7/18/2000
If you were looking for a model of how artistry and faith can be in perfect union, Soul-Junk may have the answer. Because of the group's commitment to their music, it will gain an audience that would otherwise not hear the message of the gospel. Glen Galaxy and his partners in Soul-Junk are pushing the limits of music with their fusion of hip-hop, techno, and indie rock.
Soul-Junk quotes scripture and makes overt remarks about their Christian worldview. But I have a feeling audiences won't turn away. Because of the band's uncompromising musical style, people will listen. Author, musician, and CCM Magazine columnist John Fischer recently wrote that if Christians focus on their art, they can then weave their faith into it. Fischer writes "Sacrifice the art, and you guarantee the message will be heard only by those who, because they already support it, are tolerant of any effort on its behalf." What a novel idea; Create great art that draws us in, and then hit us with the gospel. Neither style nor substance has been sacrificed. Faith and art can go hand in hand.
Musically, the album spans several genres, yet the vibe is consistent. Whether it's the straightforward hip-hop of "ill-m-i" or the college-radio friendly "Sweet to My Soul", 1956 isn't disjointed. The only problem with this kind of musical experimentation is that many people just won't get it. Unless she's truly hip, your mom won't understand this stuff; The masses probably won't get it either. 1956 is not as consistent, or catchy as Beck's Odelay, another album built on intertwined layers of hip-hop and indie rock. Soul-Junk can't top Beck, but who can? His magnum opus Odelay won a Grammy. For the daring listener, 1956 is a sonic treat, breathing new life into a stale musical marketplace.
I've heard enough from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. Give me Soul-Junk, because it's "Sweet to My Soul."
Steve White 07/24/2000