Arts » Noise

Spiritualized

Two local releases spread the sound of one God clapping

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David Boone
Undiscovered
self-released

I don’t want to mock anyone’s religious beliefs, regardless of how narrow or contradictory or self-serving they might seem to me. I am an Everythingist, the central tenet of which creed is that everything everyone else believes in either exists or might as well exist simply because they believe it it. Everythingism might just be the one religion in which individual belief is immaterial to the sum total of what everyone who isn’t an Everythingist believes, although it’s not like we don’t have ideas of our own. It’s kind of like just being alive, minus all the useless bother of trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong all the time. Everybody’s right because nobody is. God created the world and everything in it, but it also all came from a spaceship. Everythingists believe in the Golden Rule central to most other religions, and that all men are brothers. Also that saying “please” and “thank you” and telling people that they look nice today are just as important as praying, and that cats and dogs are still friends even though they might not think they are.

In Everythingist cosmology, people who take the narrow view of God as a good-cop/bad-cop authority figure to be placated with dull hymns and perfunctory church attendance merely labor under the misapprehension that He cares overmuch what anyone thinks of Him. Likewise, acoustic singer/songwriters who aspire to raise a joyful noise unto the Lord with soul-searching hymns are performing needless busywork for a handful of friends and family, because He already knows. The God of Everythingist tradition is pleased to have inadvertently hooked up his mortal pals with the sound of beautiful music composed for His glory for all these long centuries, but when He tunes in to Station Earth, it’s usually to listen to leaves or the sound of single river flowing for a million years. The Joan Osborne song about “What if God was one of us?” is a source of mild embarrassment to Him, but it was not for that reason that He gently smote her recording career. He simply finds mass-marketed piety, like perfection, to be extremely boring. And it is for this reason that, inasmuch as He is paying attention to something He’s heard five billion times before, He prefers singers with good hearts but quaky voices like David Boone’s. He’s also big on Stevie Wonder. Mind you, this is just what we Everythingists think we know, just like everybody else. Scott Kennedy
Untitled
Jeweltone Record Company

A lot of recording artists thank the Almighty in their liner notes, and just because they do so doesn’t necessarily mean the listener has to take the music for being purely devotional in nature. Answer me this, though: When said artist includes an entire, and rather lengthy, bit of Scripture on the back of an album, does that mean we should make a conscious attempt at interpreting the lyrics in a devotional light? What I mean is, should the listener fixate on that same glint of light that seems to be reflected in the artist’s overall personality, and so perhaps at least implicitly informs the songs themselves?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that at the end of the day, I’d much rather hear an album of real songcraft, multilayered instrumental tracks and an oblique approach to spirituality than have a front-row seat on naked self-exploration with an eye toward salvation. Which is basically what you get with the David Boone album: just him and his guitar and his desire to be pure in the eyes of the Lord.

Which is fine, but not necessarily to everyone’s tastes, and not quite as appealing to me as Scott Kennedy’s nameless album, which takes the road to salvation by way of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds or Smile sessions, and makes perfect pop sense even when you strip away the overarching devotional nature implied by the Biblical quotations on the back. Which are printed in German, by the way, and rather mystifyingly at that. Does Kennedy feel somewhat self-conscious about these admissions of faith, and so feel more comfortable cloaking his indications of faith in a foreign language?

Search me, but I like the ambiguity. I like these 14 songs a whole lot, too. Parts of the record sound like Pink Floyd crossed with the Beach Boys at their least commercial, and the shapes of words are just as important as the lyrical content, which is always a big plus. This record should have been called Sleepytime Spirituals, and it’s just the thing for those quiet moments when Christians want their souls anointed with words and pleasing music and Everythingists want them rubbed down with shapes of words and pleasing music. It’s rare to have it both ways—really. I say this very cautiously, but cloyingly religious lyrics (and these lyrics aren’t overtly religious at all, at least not on the face of them) tend to have a gangrenous effect on the listening experience when you just want to listen to music, not hear a sermon.

Speaking of liner notes, there’s a line toward the bottom of the notes in this record that says this: “Listening to this CD with headphones might offer an alternative perspective to the sounds of the music.” Quite right at that—and it takes moxie to declare your own record a “headphone experience.” Definitely check this one out.

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