International Anthems For The Human Race

All Star United

Essential Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


How did I miss All Star United's 1997 eponymous debut disc? This group is fun!

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, this five-man band makes some very interesting musical choices and that makes them a little hard to categorize - but I don't have a problem with that. Think of the music from the film That Thing You Do, add just a touch of Spandau Ballet and the Beach Boys, and mix in a Christian worldview informed by irony. The band is a mishmash of genres, but underneath it all is a desire to tweak some sensibilities - all in the name of fun.

At times, lyrically, the point can be missed. But most of the time the lyrics stand up as well as the music. The disc's first single is "Superstar" and it's a good example of oddball lyrics not quite making sense - but man are they fun:

"Wistful for disco/We get a little misty remembering Menudo/And all those old pros/The Bay City Rollers and Pinky Tuscadero/It must be our breeding/Call us like cattle we come stampeding/To the new romantics/Everybody wants a love titanic/And Tiger Beat keeps us on cue."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It seems it's a bash at society's inclination to worship something - anything - even if it's the "Flavor-of-the-Month" that goes soaring up the pop music charts but really doesn't have any substance. ASU claims Jesus as their "Superstar" in the chorus:

"It's true/We were born to worship someone/It's true, I do/...You are the only One by far/Because You are never changing."

ASU is comprised of Dave Clo, electric and acoustic guitars; Christian Crowe, percussion; Ian Eskelin, vocals and keyboards; Patrick McCallum, synths and samples; and, Adrian Walther, bass. Eskelin seems to be the driving force of the band. He has a hand in all 11 (oops, make that 12 with the "hidden" track) songs and sings lead on all of them. If memory serves, he was a solo artist of minor success before ASU.

But, ASU doesn't just make fun of Americans who flock, unthinkingly, to the vapid playground that is the current pop music scene. No sirree. They also take on the bands themselves. In the song "Popular Americans," Eskelin and crew nail the bands who take themselves so seriously, especially those in the Christian music market.

"When you're so prestigious/It makes you half-religious/In a patriotic sort of way/Our money says we trust/But you know it's only just/A party slogan we were taught to say."

The disc was written and constructed live in the studio with Neill King, a producer who, according to band member Crowe, "didn't have a clue how Christian records ought to sound." King has, however, produced for the secular acts Green Day, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, and Madness. This technique gives the music a very edgy and immediate sound. Everything is right there up front. In fact, it takes until the seventh cut for ASU to slow down the sound at all. On "I Need You Now," Eskelin sings of his need to have Christ in his life, even if he doesn't always admit it.

"So here I am/Cold and afraid/I'm not the kind to cry "Jesus"/Or put my heart on parade/But oh there are four words I want You to know/I need You now, more than ever Lord/Give me truth over mystery."

All Star United is one great band. With increased listening more is found, lyrically and musically - and that's always a good sign. Now, to pick up that debut disc.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Essential Records, and is used for informational purposes only.