The Phantom Tollbooth

What Remains
Artist: Spoken
Label: Metro 1 Music
Time: 14 tracks / 48:43

Ska is dead.  The latest trend in Christian music is rap-core.  Helped in part by the continued melding of rock and hip-hop by the mainstream market, band after band is following this trend.  New bands are getting quick label deals, and established bands are getting label support. Spoken released their second album in the midst of this trend, for better or for worse.

The resemblance to Rage Against The Machine is very apparent in this album. The spitfire rap attack of lead vocalist Matt Baird has a decent resemblance to Zach De La Rocha's own throat stylings. However, the band also has the familiar RATM problem of same-sounding songs. Only a few songs, such as "Taken For Granted" and "Runaway" stand out from the others. What Spoken needs is a Tom Morella to interject some vibrancy and individuality into the songs' mix.

Lyrically, though, you just have to like Spoken.  With a "unashamed of the Gospel" approach, Spoken leaves no doubt where their allegiance lays on songs like "Taken For Granted":

 You just stood there as they beat him
 As their whips tore through my skin
 He wanted to cry out in pain
 But that wouldn't have freed us from our sin
 He asked His father why He was forsaken
 But God loved us so much Christ died to set us free
 God loved us that much
Production by Jyro Xhan of Mortal/Fold Zandura fame definately helps:  the mix is even and all of the instruments come across sharp and well-defined.  Jyro also sings on what is arguably the best song on the album, a blistering
cover of "People Get Ready, Jesus Is Coming," originally done by Crystal Lewis. Co-writing is also attributed to Jyro on the song "Fly With Me," a collaboration between Jyro, Spoken, and rappers K2S.

With only a few stand-out songs, the good production and cool cover art can't make up for the overwhelming blandness that is this release.  In a genre fairly exploding with new bands, mediocrity is the ultimate sin.  A band that can't inspire passions either positively or negatively is doomed to obscurity, which sadly, is what this album probably deserves.

Joe Rockstroh  7/12/99

Spoken's sophomore effort What Remains invites even more comparisons to Rage Against the Machine than their debut did. While the band may not cover any new ground musically, it's nearly impossible not to admire a band as lyrically upfront as this: "Just touch me, so I can see/Your power, Your glory!" Spoken makes it undeniably plain: They are hardcore for Christ.  Intense, if somewhat predictable; worthy of at least a couple spins in any rap-core fan's CD player. If Spoken can mix some variety into their musical attack, they should break really big.
 
 Josh Marihugh 8/25/99