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1957
Artist: Soul Junk
Label: Sounds Are Active Records
Length: 14 tracks, length: 39:49 

Soul Junk is a band that has gone through quite a lot of changes and musical transformations over the years.  In their earliest incarnation it was raw, punked out, jazz-laced, trippy tuneage.  In more recent years the band has moved into a more hip-hoppy direction.  With 1957, Glenn Galaxy and SloRo are the main collaborators, with a nice fusion of the old and new.  The hip-hop is still up front with some of the older raw tuneage coming back into play.  And it sounds like more of this is on the way as they plan to release up to three more albums by the end of the year!

Soul Junk is still firmly grounded in the DIY school of music making, and, as always, it's the lyrics and vocal wordplay that make this band so groovy.  Who else can drop names, like "John Candelaria" (former Pirates pitcher for the baseball deficient), and then throw together a song with a rhyme scheme using the words "symphonic," "teutonic," "bubonic," "menmonic," and "chronic?"  What's not to love about that?

Several songs, such as "Horse Posing as Unicorn" and "Ruby Doomsday," even sound like they would fit perfectly on early discs like 1951 and 1952.  Other standout tunes on this disc include "Non-Linear," "UngstFuncSlagCollision," "Innerspaceman," and "Droptop Floride." 

One the whole, this disc is an improvement over the last several Soul Junk outings, but is still not quite up to par with those great early efforts.

Ken Mueller 8/05/02 

In one of Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock's short stories, a man jumps on his horse and rides off in all directions.  This is somewhat the impression which I got on my first listen to this, Soul Junk's latest full length effort.  Where 1955 seemed to indicate a band with varying interests, 1956 was a fairly coherent rock-tinged, hip-hop laced effort, and was eminently listenable. 1957 seems to be heading in the direction of 1956, in that it is heavy on the hip-hop, but with a decidedly different flavor. 

Where 1956 was largely pop music, 1957 is decidedly not, for the most part.  This is not to say that it isn't good; on the contrary, this may be one of the best albums Soul Junk has put out.  The thing is that people who think of Soul Junk in terms of their work before 1956 will perhaps have a hard time figuring out what happened.

1957 is, as was mentioned before, essentially a hip-hop album, though not without the traces of eccentric instrumentation, effect-laden vocals, and such that listeners have come to expect from Soul Junk.  As a result, the guitar-based rock songs with lyrics lifted directly from the Scriptures are missing on this project.  Is this a good or a bad thing?  That is something for each listener to decide for him- or herself.  For me, one of the things I appreciated most about Soul Junk was their ability to set the Scripture to instantly recognizable tunes, as on their recent EP 1942.  In that way, I found this project a little disappointing.

However, with Soul Junk recording and releasing as much as they are right now, it isn't surprising that each project takes on a flavour of its own.  Galaxalag (Glen (Galaxy) Galloway, the founding member/multi-instrumentalist/MC) and Slo-Ro (second MC/beats/other instruments), the members of Soul Junk for this project, do a convincing job of mixing the beats and filling the songs with clever musical hooks.  Lyrically, Galaxalag is very strong this time out, if a little heavy on the "Look at me, I'm an MC" vibe at times.

If there's one thing that can be said about this album, it is that it makes it really hard to guess where Soul Junk's ever-experimental style will land next, but having delved as deeply into hip-hop and rap as deeply as they have on this album, I have a feeling there is something else up Galaxalag's sleeve for the next project.

Alex Klages 9/17/2002

I consider Soul-Junk's 1956 a watershed album of sorts, a delirious hip-hop masterpiece that wedded outright Christian ideology with a mad scientist's mixture of jungle, drum n' bass, pop, and a couple genres that may not even have names. Every listen to it was like a breath of fresh air, and was enough to make this skinny white boy to bob his head, pump his fist in the air, and rhyme along. Lyrically, Soul-Junk's Glen Galaxy (a.k.a. Galaxalag) kept up with his musical madness step for step, delivering a one-two punch of worship songs and cleverly biting critiques of the Church and her failings.

And now comes 1957, and I find myself a bit torn. Although 1957 continues Soul-Junk's love for unpredictable musical confectionery, it's far more ambitious and experimental. "Jelly Wings" is a surreal downtempo experiment, complete with stream of consciousness rhymes and lethargic female background vocals. The orchestral hits of "Ungst Func Slag Collision" keep pushing the song along like so many hard-hitting beats, while the horn samples of "Innerspacemen" announce the song in high style.

Taking in 1957 is like listening to all of the schizophrenia of 1956 condensed into only half the time. And therein lies the problem. Along the way to a purer form of musical strangeness (think Half-Handed Cloud or a less-focused Avalanches), it feels like Soul-Junk lost their most potent weapon... their wit. Well maybe they didn't. But it's hard to tell because the element that I loved the most about 1956 (Galaxalag's soothsaying) feels practically smothered by the layers of sounds, samples, and orchestrations. With time, it may be possible to peel back all of the layers, but on some songs, such as "Mercury" and its monotone robotic delivery, I wonder if it'll be worth it.

It's great to see Soul-Junk pushing the sonic boundaries of their music. I've always felt that Soul-Junk was one of Christendom's hidden treasures, telling it like it is over crazed, wacked out sounds. Soul-Junk put it best themselves on 1956's "3PO Soul": "Just got kicked off the lectern at a worship song summit/My hymns all plummet 'cause church ladies still won't hum it". And "1957"'s musical oddities certainly won't win them any more favor amongst those more set in their ways.

But I have to admit, after listening to 1957 a couple of times, I put in 1956 and there was a marked difference. Although tracks like "Ill-M-I" and "Pumpfake" might not be as out there, it was refreshing to see that Galaxalag's lyrics had lost none of their potency or cleverness. It's too bad that, while Soul-Junk was deepening and broadening their musical palette, some things were marginalized in the process.

Jason Morehead 10/18/2002
 
 

Jason Morehead is also the publisher of Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at http://www.opuszine.com. 

 

 

   
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