19 December 2015

Music Day - Comedian

So guess who else has a Kickstarter going?

Steve Taylor is perhaps the most controversial and most well-known figure in CCM history. He is one of those rare figures in CCM who has managed to be both controversial and well-known for longer than a year. Plenty have been controversial (Petra, post-¡Alarma!-era Daniel Amos), but are not known by today's generation of Christians -- their perceived sins were forgotten after a year or two. And plenty have been well-known (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith), but not really boat-rockers.

Steve Taylor, however, managed to get signed to Sparrow Records -- historically one of the biggest labels in CCM -- which gave him a far bigger potential audience to start with. Add to that a few strong opinions about controversial topics, his knowledge of sarcasm as a first language, and an uncanny ability to pick just the right details and/or wordplay to infuse colour and the unexpected into a song, and you have a recipe for an infamous artist. Even after he stopped releasing solo work, he kept writing songs... my generation of CCM listeners is well acquainted with songs like Breakfast, Shine, Reality, and Million Pieces (Kissing Your Cares Goodbye), all made famous by the Newsboys.

Then the Newsboys Americanised and the brilliant songwriting of Steve Taylor seemed doomed to disappear forever.

But then, two years ago, he launched a Kickstarter campaign with the eventual goal of recording another album with himself on vocals -- his first in over twenty years (the previous Steve Taylor album, Squint, came out in 1993). Naturally, hungry fans pounced on it and if memory serves the campaign was fully funded in twenty-four hours.

This song was a result of that campaign and the resulting album.

Title: Comedian
Artist: Steve Taylor And The Perfect Foil
Album: Goliath
Year: 2014
Label: Independent release
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Now there is another Kickstarter campaign in the works. Steve and his band (which includes Newsboys alum Peter Furler on drums) intend to record an EP, so if you want more of this, go support it here.

Now -- if you're still with me after all that ancient history and the advert -- about the actual song.

I'm not even going to attempt to explain a Steve Taylor lyric because I'll probably get it wrong, so read the lyrics and form your own conclusions here. There's some really great wordplay in the first three verses though (The saints came marching in this morning / And they marched back out the door / Wholly offended...).

Musically speaking, this might be called progressive (I don't actually know, I suck at this genre-classification thing). The music is really sparse until the three-and-a-half-minute mark when the cymbals start competing with Steve's voice for first place in the mix. An electric guitar joins in about a minute later, only to drop out for the ending: a haunting synthesized half-spoken repetition of the phrase Man makes plans / God laughs... (although maybe it only sounds haunting to me because I was watching the Doctor Who episode The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances last night... the voice in the song reminds me a LOT of the voice of the kid saying "Are you my mummy?") This song is significantly mellower than the rest of the album (I very nearly featured Double Negative today instead of Comedian), so if slow songs aren't your thing -- and I don't blame you -- do check out the rest of the album, because if memory serves, this is actually by far the most mellow song on it.

1 comment:

Ron Easton for Dads UnLimited said...

He is drawing a comparison of Jesus as jester I believe. Steve used to be compared to Socrates, a keen observer killed by those with the power. Maybe it's himself he's writing about too?