This is sensational what ever way you look at it. Steve Taylor the prophetic rebel poet laureate of Christian rock in the 80s and 90s releases his first record in 21 years. The Perfect Foil is like a super group; Peter Furler from one of Christian rock’s biggest band’s Newsboys, John Mark Painter from the imaginative and very original Fleming and John and Jimmy Abegg guitar hero of Vector, The Ragamuffin Band as well as a solo artist and highly regarded photographer.
Then the songs. Oh my goodness. Don’t be fooled by the words 80s and 90s at the start of this review. This is a record that vibrates with energy and urgency for 2014. You can hear every phase of Taylor’s career in these eleven songs. There is the quirk of I Want To Be A Clone and the hard edged rock of his previous super group Chagall Guevara. Goliath is the sum of all the parts. Here is a man reached further and deeper and wider in every album he has ever released and 30 years in has arrived with his most holistic work yet.
It rocks as well as anything has rocked this year. It would seem that the Perfect Foil is not just for wrapping but that all three are contributing at the heart. Furler writes melodies as well as great drum rhythms, Painter is one of the most versatile and imaginative players and Abegg can strum, riff and finger dance. All of that is in evidence throughout. There is a base groove that thuds most sweetly and guitar licks that sprinkle like shards of brightest light.
On top of all of that Taylor’s lyrics are so poetic, prophetic, provocative, downright clever and so darn humorous that you can’t take your ears off it. English theologian John Stott spoke of “double listening”. No one does it better than Taylor. He is listening acutely to the soul numbing dangers of the world around him and how the culture bends and breaks us. He has also a sharp Biblical ear, that cuts through the shallow thinking and cheap cliche of most evangelical Christianity, and applies the Word to the world with sensitive grace but courageous truth. He brings Stott’s double listening together in the studio to create songs that everybody needs to listen to.
The listener will feel a strength to fight a variety of empty enemies in a modern world of entertainment, celebrity and moulding us into its image. With many a depth charge some of them humorous (the high 5 in Goliath is beautifully done and the puns in Comedian are genius) we will be engaged artistically, spiritually and rebelliously. It is deftly subtle and tenaciously tough. Whatever your Goliath this will help! A Life Preserved might be a summary:
“Calling me out of the shallows of my world
Called to something graceful, something true
Gratitude's too cheap a word for all you've reassembled
From a spirit broken and unnerved
A life preserved.”