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  Grace Period
Artist: Apologetix
Label: 2002 Parodudes Inc.
Length: 20 tracks/72:55

Apologetix isn’t your average parody band.  Though billed as “Billy Graham meets Weird Al,” the moniker is hardly accurate.  With theological nails they hammer their points deeper and with nearly flawless precision their songs sound practically like the original.  When was the last time Billy preached the kings of Judah (“Good Guys, Bad Guys”) or Yankovic parodied Styx’ classic rocker “Renegade” like Apologetix (“Lemonade”)?

Furthermore, the frightening truth is they’re pretty good at it.  Apologetix fears no decade and runs the table on the tunes they tackle, from Linkin Park’s “In The End” to Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” to the Beatles’ “Love Me Do.”  In a twist of the lyrics they turn Simon and Garfunkel’s lusty “Cecilia” into the story of Cornelius and Peter (Acts 10).  Or the Village People’s randy “YMCA” into an apologetic for understanding the use of YHWH in the Old Testament.  Or Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” into the apocalyptic demise of the Devil (“Drop of Lucifer”).

To be honest, there are few clunkers on this effort.  In fact, with six other full-length parody albums under their belts, Apologetix may have finally delivered the album that gets them some well-deserved and overdue praise.  Musical highlights include “Smooth Grandmama”--a parody of Alien Ant Farm/Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” which features searing guitar work and well-crafted lyrics.  Or the aforementioned “The Devil Went Down To Jordan” which not only sounds like the original but also features one of Charlie Daniel’s own fiddlers on the famous solo.  Or “Don’t Fear The People”a parody of the Blue Oyster Cult classicfocusing on early Christian martyrs and is so close to the original hit that few might recognize the difference without the lyrics.  Weird Al did parodies.  Apologetix actually hungers to hit every note and even sound like the lead vocalist, whether it’s Kurt Cobain (“Smells Like Thirtysomething Spirit”) or Smashmouth’s version of “I’m A Receiver”…er,…believer. 

The value of Apologetix is their knack to craft a lyric that teaches a biblical truth or story.  One moment they’re talkin’ ‘bout “Regeneration” (spoofing the Who).  The next they’re arguing against anti-Semitism (“Love The Jews”) with Bible references.  In another song they’ll re-tell the story of Thomas’ lack of faith (“Tom Saw Ya”) and in another the band will rewrite Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me” to explain the choosing of the disciples.  In the end, you’re not only treated to Top 40 tunes but also testaments of the faith.

With all that said, are there any flaws?  A few.  Apologetix attempts to duplicate the raw energy of Springsteen’s “Born To Run” in “Born From Above” and falters.  It’s not bad.  It’s just hard to improve upon The Boss’ passion and grit.   Sometimes they stretch a lyric or title to an inane end, such as altering the Beach Boy’s classic surf rocker “Barbara Ann” into the sheepishly silly “Baa! We’re The Lambs.”  Maybe that’s why it’s the last song.

Grace Period clearly improves on their past efforts.  In fact, it’s their best to date.  Weird Al can now start taking notes.  Billy, too.

Rick Chromey September 22, 2002


 
 

Rick Chromey is a professor of Christian education and youth ministry at Saint Louis Christian College in Florissant, MO.  His wife and two children continue to tolerate his addiction to collecting music, drinking too much Coca-Cola and traveling to exotic locales like Boise and Birmingham.   Rick longs to eventually fulfill his lifelong dream of being a DJ for a “classic Christian rock” station

Serious critics of music, literature, and the arts in general love to salivate and gratuitously grind their hindmost mental molars as they perform mental mastication upon a wide range of aesthetic issues. They always manage to find vast topics to apply to their subject of analysis. Their critical food for thought generally touches upon quintessential issuesissues such as the prevalence of archetypes; the equilibrium of opposite forces; or the degree to which and/or manner in which intrinsic symbolic forces contained in a particular body of work reflect social tensions concomitant to the specific culture the artist is appointed to by the restless hands of time. If that sounds like a run-on sentence, it is. If that sounds like a lot to chew, I wouldn't, would you? Spit it out. 

Serious critics would undoubtedly eat ApologetiX alive, allowing no grace period for the band to redeem themselves for the sundry aesthetic sins they have committed in the name of trying to make evangelizing fun, the shameless lengths they go to in making Christianity relevant to a new generation of angst-ridden, anxiety-prone, musically driven adolescents. There is an exorbitant amount of serious evidence to critically castigate the bandif that is one's sole desideratumbut I simply refuse to apply a series of serious aesthetic principles to their style and essence. In order to pull this off, and save face at the same time, I'll have to let go of the adjective “serious” before the term “critic” and, in its place, settle for the role of casual critic in the analysis of ApologetiX's Grace Period

Though a serious critic may object to the silliness of the lyrics, the ostensible lack of originality, and the transparently formulaic nature of ApologetiX's approach to evangelism, serious critics are irrelevant with respect to this band and the contagious fun the band seems to be having. Superciliously sneering cyniX and super serious critiX of ApologetiX are likely to spoil the party. I'm willing to assume many labels, some not so complimentarybut "party-pooper" is not one of them. 

ApolgetiX are not equivocal in communicating exactly what they are apologetics for; evangelical Christianity in which the Bible is confidently deemed to be the infallible final authority in all matters of truth. Unlike Weird Al, whose putative primary purpose is entertainment for entertainment's sake, these proclaimers of a weird al-leuia simply use entertainment as a means of delivery. Evangelism is the cornerstone of their motivation. Entertainment is secondarya means to an end. Nevertheless, they entertain exceedingly well. 

It is clear that members of ApologetiX take one notion to heart; the notion that it is incumbent upon every believer to spread the gospel throughout the world, and do so without shame. They offer no apologies for the role they have assumed or the exigency with which they deliver gospel truths. Their preferred medium or vehicle of transmission is the American popular song. It is a formula, and for this, they offer no apologies. Any means justifies the end. Unlike theological apologetics, they do not appeal to the intellect. They seek to offer, through their lyrics, a surfeit of witticism and a prolific abundance of satirical repartee. Sometimes they succeed. Case in point, “Smooth Grandmama.” Sometimes they fall a little short, as in “I'm a Receiver.” Sometimes they miss the boat, but, thanks to uncommonly clever corn, manage to reach the shore anyway. The beloved “Love the Jews” (to the tune of “Love Me Do” by The Beatles) and “Baa! We're Lambs!” (to the tune of the Beach Boys' “Barbara Ann”) are prime examples. But their aim, unlike that of members of the religious illuminati, is not an intellectual one. I do not mean to question the extent of their intellectual capacities or deny that there is a measure of musical genius in their work. Certainly the musical verisimilitude between their reinterpretations and the original classic tunes is nothing short of astonishing. Making the songs sound so similar to the originals, despite the wide range of styles that are represented in their selections, takes a great deal of musical mastery. More important than mere intellect, ApologetiX are guided by zeal and are equipped with manifold scripture references. 

Though I have all but abandoned, or at least temporarily suspended, the role of serious critic for the purpose of this analysis, I do have one serious criticism. The band often quotes references to scripture passages as shortcuts to the passages themselves. This renders certain lyrics indecipherable to all but the most obsessive of biblical bibliophiles. Furthermore, when full passages are quoted or alluded to, they are sometimes taken out of context for the apparent purpose of expediency. Depth and clarity are sadly sacrificed in the process. 

The band is prolific and decidedly versatile. The CD contains twenty tunes spanning several decades of various genres of popular music from the Beach Boys to Nirvana. The most entertaining and clever song is “Smooth Grandmama.” You will laugh so hard that you'll forget that you have just been preached at. They'll have you laughing all the way to the altar. Since their version of “Smooth Criminal” is more like Alien Ant Farm's interpretation of Michael Jackson, it could be considered a reinterpretation of a reinterpretation, just like “I'm a Receiver,” which sounds more like Smash Mouth's reinterpretation of the Monkee's interpretation of Neil Diamond, the original writer of the song, “I'm a Believer.” That would make that one a reinterpretation of a reinterpretation of a reinterpretation. I'll stop there. I'm getting much too deep for a casual critic.

Their audience is growing exponentially in size. It will be interesting to observe if and how their material will mature. It will be similarly interesting to see if and in what direction their purview will expand. 

Asking ApologetiX to start writing their own music would be like asking the band Stryper to change its stripes. Unless they are superstars, songwriters have to continually beg and borrow to get by. Their philosophy seems to be why beg and borrow when you can steal? Asking ApologetiX to raise the intellectual bar would be tantamount to asking a rodeo horse to do dressage. The superciliously stuffy critic is likely to get bucked off just like the common cowboy. I'm no tree hugger, but I love a richly dense forest. As a psychologist grounded in Gestalt psychology and divinely guided humanistic theories, I'm always trying to get my patients to see the big picture or the Gestalt. I'm probably the one who single-handedly turned the cliché, "you can't see the forest for the trees," into a cliché. However, sometimes a tree is just a tree, and must be appreciated as such. There isn't always a surrounding or even a neighboring forest. If you're a serious critic, you may still respond to the ApologetiX Grace Period by turning your nose up in a display of sanctimonious disdain. Relax! Before you go getting your trunk all tied in knots, I have something to say. I'm sorry, but there ain't no room for a supercilious, super-serious critic in this neck of the woods. Your application simply doesn't apply. When it comes to ApologetiX, their Grace Period, and their weird Al-leuia, you're stripping the wrong bark and barking up the wrong tree. 

A CD review by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, a.k.a. Dr. B.L.T., the Rock Doc 11/10/2002


 

   
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