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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: All Star United
Tracks/Time: 10 tracks/ 30:22
Longtime All Star United fans shouldn't be surprised that the latest disc from Ian Eskelin and Co. is titled Revolution; after all, much of the band's previous material focused on cleaning up hypocrisy within the church and greed within the music industry. A concept album bent on igniting changes within the Christian community, then, is the natural next step for All Star United.
With a few exceptions (Steve Taylor comes to mind), not many contemporary Christian songwriters are suited to call for reform as well as Eskelin, so it's no surprise that, despite its Lennon-esque connotations, half of Revolution serves as a tactful, firm yet gentle call for Christians to wake up and offer hope to our lost, broken world. Opening track "We Are the Future" reminds the listener of his or her potential to shape the future of the world, while "Weirdo" finds Eskelin's infamous knack for sarcasm in fine form, asserting that believing in Christ is not nearly as farfetched as some make it out to be. Despite an oversimplified chorus, the title cut serves up witty commentary, lamenting that the Christians of the world have "been shot be phasers set to stun." With songs as memorable and relevant as these, one has to wonder why it took Eskelin so long to record them.
If only he'd stuck to his strengths.
Criminally, Revolution is marred by a few songs that are egregiously, unforgivably shallow. "Let it Rain," for example, despite expressing some worthwhile points, finds Eskelin embracing the pie-in-the-sky, now-that-I've-found-Jesus-I-have-no-problems view of Christianity that is so common in a lot of Christian pop songs. That's a real shame; it's hard to take the singer seriously when he presents such an unbalanced view of life. Of course, not all music has to be as gloomy and tenebrous as Radiohead, but half of this Revolution, including "Let it Rain," and the cliche-ridden "You Can Count on Me," are simply too happy for their own good, and don't hold a candle to such All Star United classics as "La La Land," "Popular Americans," and "If We Were Lovers."
Though the lyrics of Revolution are a painfully mixed bag, All Star United's sound is still as peppy, energetic, and fun as ever before; in fact, that band has never sounded better. Eskelin's latest set of cohorts lean more toward the Britpop feel of the group's debut than the American-flavored International Anthems of the Human Race. Relying more on acoustic instruments more than ever before and employing some guitar distortion and trickery that would make The Edge proud, All Star United's sound if a refreshing break from the typical prepackaged Nashville fluff that many Christian artists turn to these days. In other words, you won't find canned drum loops or trendy techno beeps and bloops here- Revolution is good, old-fashioned rock ‘n' roll.
Though longtime All Star United fans may be disappointed to hear that only one of the group's signature sarcastic songs made it on to Revolution, and many listeners will likely be insulted by the banality of some of Eskelin's cheesy lyrics, the album is still well worth looking into. Almost worth the price of admission alone is"Sweet Jesus,"which, along with Sixpence None the Richer's "Melody of You,"stands as one of the best contemporary worship song of the year. Sure, these All Stars have a long way to go, but Revolution is far from revolting.
Josh Hurst 11/2/2002
All Star United is back with Revolution after two and half years of writing. While it is a mixed bag of content, it is fairly enjoyable overall.
The album takes an upbeat start with “We Are The Future” and then moves on to a number of ballads. Once you hit track 6, “Kings And Queens,” the rock music starts up again for some good old ASU fun. It then fades in and out shortly after until you hit the closing track: “Weirdo.” With Weirdo" there is not a doubt that this is the All Star United we have come to know and love.
Ian Eskelin’s witty lyrics are definitely present on some track with enjoyable music that definitely adds to the overall experience. But as for knowing if this album surpasses previous ones, it really comes down to personal preference. Without a doubt, all ASU fans will love it, but to be honest I enjoy their older stuff better (their greatest hits album was great to showcase this).
Nonetheless, with personal opinions aside, this album is done well. Sure, things could have been done to make it better, but you should still consider checking it out nonetheless. Without a doubt, it’s a really great album.
Josh McConnell 12/1/2002
After a switch in labels, multiple cast changes, and a three-year hiatus All Star United returns with Revolution-- a ten-song album displaying the same Brit-pop stylings of Ian Eskelin and Co., but with a more subdued, gentler spirit.
Making a mark in 1997 with their brand of "in-your-face," Brit-pop music and spontaneous live shows, ASU, led by the charismatic Ian Eskelin, became well known for their satirical approach to confronting touchy issues in the Christian community. With International Anthems for the Human Race, their second release, the band’s music evolved into a more American-ized sound than their debut, while the lyrical content remained witty and crisp. But three years later and with Eskelin the lone original member, ASU has adopted a, dare I say, tamer approach to their craft.
“We Are the Future” begins the album with a sound similar to where International Anthems left off. Challenging the listener to realize his potential in the light of “Love,” the song pushes a theme of immediate revolution where the smallest of people can play a big role. The classic Eskelin wit shines through in the first verse: “I woke up one day quite a bit younger in spite of my age. I was A-OK, instantly rich in my minimum wage…if I can make a change for the better like water into wine then we can change the world...”
“Sweet Jesus,” the album’s first single, is possibly Eskelin’s finest bit of writing to date. The song is written as a conversation between Eskelin and God and works as an honest plea for renewal. Quickly following, “Making It Beautiful” is but a short breath of a song, lasting just over two minutes, but says more than a good number of CCM artists do on an entire album.
The title track is a tad weak, much like “International Anthems” from their sophomore disc and “Made in Heaven” wears with its metaphors of love, but standouts like “Kings and Queens” and “Weirdo” make for adequate compensation. The latter is a conspiracy theorist’s paradise, closing out the album with references to Elvis living in Greece, the lunar landing being filmed in a Disney studio, “pop rocks”, and crop circles.
Essentially, ASU is nothing more than Eskelin. His other three bandmates (brothers Mike and Matt Payne on guitar and drums and bassist Jeremy Hunter) recorded together as a band on only one song, while multiple session players covered the majority of the album. And while Eskelin does a worthy job of juggling responsibilities, there is a “band atmosphere” lacking that was present on previous ASU efforts. In addition, it’s seems a shame that Revolution doesn’t bear more than its ten tracks, considering the long wait between albums.
Revolution seems a paradoxical title considering that roughly half the album consists of tunes that are either calmer in sound, content or both. But it’s quite possibly that Eskelin has discovered another form of revolution---one that sneaks up on the listener, rather than the classic head-on confrontation. Whatever the strategy, ASU fans will enjoy this latest installment.
Matthew Williams 1/20/2003