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  Between the Fence and the Universe EP
Artist: Kevin Max
Label: Blind Thief Recordings
Length: 6 tracks/ 23:44

Max's newest effort is a louder, more guitar driven EP that conserves some of the quirky song writing of his previous full length release, yet takes his style into territory it only glanced over in a few tracks on Stereotype Be_ -- namely, rock. 

"Seek" and "21st Century Darlings" are surprisingly heavy, full of crunchy guitars and loud drums. Kevin even lets out a couple screams in the bridge of the latter song. "Irish Hymn" is a straight forward rock/pop song with heartfelt lyrics- "this one's/ for all you people/ who hit the rock bottom/ and climbed it back up again." The EP ends with "To the Dearly Departed," a gentle number written to the lost loves of our lives.

Though somewhat less poetic, the lyrics in most of the songs are bold and show Kevin's intellectuality, ranging in their themes from uplifting pick-yourself-up motivators, to commemorations of apocalyptic love (hint: 72.5 is the average life span of a human male). The strong world music influence in his previous effort, Stereotype Be, is not as pronounced this time around- coming out clearly only in the final track- but the songs are pieced together intelligently, from the three minute long instrumental at the end of "Golden," to the exciting and quirky guitar riffs in "21st Century Darlings."  The original version of Universe had six tracks, but the new edition in stores has a special seventh track, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  It isn’t a particularly amazing cover, so people who ordered the original version shouldn’t feel compelled to go and buy this new version (unless you are a big fan and want to support Kevin Max).

Universe suffers a bit from some mediocre production. The drums in a couple tracks--most noticeably in the first two songs sound tinny, and Kevin's voice doesn't seem to sound as prominent and up front as it should be in some songs; this tends to give the record a 'rough around the edges' feel.  None of this actually affects the quality of the song writing itself though, and in that area Kevin is as artistically interesting and creative as ever. Universe does it’s job of showcasing where Kevin Max is currently in his style, and reveals what new directions he is pursuing for his next project.

The next full length is set for an as of yet undetermined 2005 release, which might feel like an awfully long wait- but given the quality of the songs in this little EP, it's easy to see that dc Talk's college head still has his musical standards set sky high.

On a side note, I originally ordered a copy of Universe last summer; since I was impressed with Kevin Max's first LP, the surprisingly strange and beautiful (and over-produced) Stereotype Be, I wanted to get my hands on a copy of Kevin Max's newest work as soon as I could.  It was only about a month later though, after I had ordered and received my copy from his site, that I found out that a new version of the disc with a special seventh track would be distributed to stores in the coming months, and at a lower price. Dag, yo.  But I got over it. The six songs on the original EP are still great on their own.  For those who haven't yet purchased Universe, be
sure to look for the version with the seventh track.

Jonathan Avants 4/23/05



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