The heart of rock and roll is still beating - and Furler, Abegg, Painter and Taylor are holding paddles, just in case.
Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil
11 tracks 39:13
It's about four years ago. I'm shooting stills on a video shoot in New York City. The director is Jimmy Abegg. We break for lunch and between bites of Chinese food I bring up the band Vector and the first Jimmy A (as he was known then) solo album. So we talk music. Abegg says he has some Mp3s of something he's working on with Steve Taylor, Peter (newsboys) Furler, and John (Fleming and John) Painter – would I like to hear a sample? My fan-boyness overcomes my germ-o-phobia and I stick one ear-bud in my left ear with the other in Abegg's right.
I'm sworn to secrecy and I stick to it – but now, the jig is up. Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil have unveiled Goliath to the world, and it's lived up to its legend.
If ever there was a super-group to emerge from the ghetto of Christian music, this is it. Closer to Steve's Chagall Guevara days than his I Want to Be A Clone period, Steve and The Perfect Foil are a driving, elemental rock band, fueled by the solid drumming of Peter Furler and the well-defined bass lines of Painter, both musicians pounding through the underbelly of the music with an unrelenting propulsion. On top of this groundwork is the articulate guitar of Jimmy Abegg, sometimes delivering chunky grooves ("Moonshot") and other times getting downright nasty ("In Layers"). Of course, the reason we all noticed this – and the man who's got the top billing, after all – is our old buddy, Uncle Steve. A bit wiser, and no less potent than in the days of his Squint albums, Taylor still fires off his clever lyrics like a sanctified punk rocker, his uniquely-recognizable tone occasionally rising into the shriek-zone, and to great effect.
The album starts appropriately, with the sound of Furler's sticks hitting together to count off the lead track, "Only A Ride," a song that seems to talk about life sometimes becoming a little more than we bargain for: "It's only a ride / keep your feet in. Only a ride / It's only a ride / If it's only a ride – why am I bleedin'?" Certainly not all sweetness and light, lyrically, one wonders if the title track, "Goliath," could be a metaphor for life in general as well as for the record industry (my own speculation on that last idea – but lyrics like, "We're all aware / that you don't play fair, but we're done trying to appease you / You wanna run it / like you already won it / I think you've got amnesia..." makes that a fair guess, I think).
Oh, and the lyrics... I suspect they'll make more and more sense with repeated listening, but – like all really good lyrics – the meanings are only implied as opposed to being overtly stated, and must be taken in conjunction with the whole performance. Is "Rubberneck" about our social-media obsessed society? 'Could be. Is "A Life Preserved" about redemption? I think so:
"Calling me out of the shallows of my world / called to something graceful and true / Gratitude is too cheap a word / for all you've reassembled / From a spirit broken and unnerved / a life preserved..."
Taylor and The Foil (couldn't they have come up with a shorter name?) are unashamedly about rock and roll – intelligent rock and roll. Taylor's lyrics live somewhere between social commentary, introspection, and poetry and the band enters into the songs sometimes with a fury and sometimes, like in the intriguing closer, "Comedian," with an anticipatory pulse – the heart of rock and roll is still beating and Furler, Abegg, Painter and Taylor are holding paddles – just in case.
Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil are: Steve Taylor... Vocals, Peter Furler... Drums, Jimmy Abegg... Guitar, and John Mark Painter... Bass (and, no doubt, some of the tasty horn work that shows up on some songs)
The humor and trade-mark Steve Taylor word play are still there. The band rocks. If you liked Chagall Guevara, this one is even more nuts and bolts. The CCM world will be scratching their heads.
But, then again, we're talking about Steve Taylor...