You know, sometimes it’s easy to dislike an album. I have done it many times in the past and I will do it many times in the future, and for all you know I could be doing it right now. Over a month and a half ago, I started a draft for the one-and-only album from a band called Human with the intention of really kicking it in the pants, but then I heard the album again and, weighing it against my ideas of what makes a “bad” album and a “good” album in my mind, have had a bit of a change of heart:
Now, you might be a bit confused, because there are a lot of bands called Human, but this one specifically existed on the small-time Christian record company called Organic Records (who published Aaron Sprinkle’s first two albums). They existed seemingly for the duration of one album, which may seem unfair in the grand scheme of things, but from what I understand the band members are all still active in music so let’s not feel too sorry for them.
My original problems with the album is not that it’s actually “bad”, in fact, when it first came out (and I was but 16 years old and had a very limited view of Rock, even the Christian Rock I enjoyed in that time), I quite liked the album. I actually still do, mainly for nostalgia’s sake, but like many things that we enjoy for nostalgia’s sake, there’s a fair amount of forehead-slapping involved with listening to Out Of The Dust.
For one, every cotton-picking song follows the same tired old chord progressions and lyrical themes that can be considered cliché even for Christian music. Having said that, and we will be saying much more about that later, this album is actually enormously tight and the tonal qualities of the album can’t be denied. Guitars are satisfactorily crunchy and heavy, the rhythm section is smooth, the chord progressions, while tired and traveling the well-worn paths, are still executed with expert precision, and there are a couple of little bright shining spots of excellent vocal melody by the singer (who really is pretty good if you try to forget that he seems to be a Bono protege), and lyrics that occasionally present some original thought into the formula.
In the interest of saving space, I can easily blump nearly half of the album into “exhibit A”, in which every song falls under the down-side of this album, and that is its generic but still well-performed pieces. Those would be “Read Your Mind”, “I.O.U.”, “Make Your Light To See”, “Hand Me Down”, and “In The Name”. All of these songs have chord progressions you’ve probably heard a few times by now, and the lyrical themes are roughly the same, each title is about God and how His everlasting glory fits into an easy-to-write slogan. There’s nothing truly wrong with “Exibit A”, because honestly I have heard much worse albums where it just sounds like they took those 5 songs and just repeated them, only with different names (sometimes).
There are a couple of points on the album that are, what I feel, a bit embarrassing. It becomes clear right around the 2nd or 3rd song that the singer is influenced by one “U2″, and despite not having the high-note-hitting capacity of their dynamic weirdo of a lead singer, still retains some of the rough vocal characteristics, and this is to his benefit. It’s a good “rock” voice without being too overly characterized or downright whiney like so many 90′s alternative acts. However, this does not give him free range to tackle a cover song that is hidden… get this… at the halfway point of the album. I have never seen it before, but the “hidden track” of Out Of The Dust occurs right after track 5, and it’s “Bullet The Blue Sky”, the amazing stadium rock anthem that serves as the hallowed “track 4″ to one of the most critically loved albums in existence, The Joshua Tree. So how does Human’s version hold up? Actually it’s pretty much note-for-note, which is not really my idea of a “great” cover, since the general idea is to add your own spin to it, and all Human manages is what I consider a really inappropriate move, adding “God Bless America” to the very last line of the song, without a shred of irony. Oh, fellas.
Anyway, now that exhibit A is out of the way, we can talk about the better points of the album, which start right at track 4. It’s called “I Can’t Live”, and typically it would fit right in Exhibit A, except that I really like the song. It could be the acoustic guitar, the harmonies, the melody, which is kind of “Oasis-lite”, but this song is kind of addicting. If you can avoid paying attention to the lyrics, this is a song that can be loved by all.
The next one is all the way toward the back of the album, and is the band’s attempt at a “single”, I suppose (there’s a music video for it, you see, but you’ll never see it, it’s lost to obscurity). It’s called “Lemonade”, and if you thought the rest of the lyrics were a bit tepid, like I do, just check this the hell out:
I know, it’s true, life’s not always fair
I know, for me, I don’t always care
If life rewards just a bag of lemons
Then learn to make lemonade
That’s right, they went there. The song actually is quite catchy, too, so there’s that.
The song directly after that wins more “interesting” points than anything. It’s certainly the most deliciously dark and decadent ditty on this dud, but perhaps falls short of being all that good, I don’t know. It’s “Fat Man’s Delicacy” and features whispery vocals, artifically pitched vocals to sound an octave lower than they should (giving it a nice demonic feel) and the whole song is about the Sin of Gluttony, which I will admit is not often touched upon by Christian bands. It’s got some good stuff going for it (distorted bass for instance), and is probably my favorite song on the album.
Following that are 2 more songs that feature open acoustic guitar chords and are kind of like Exhibit A songs except that they are acoustic. Nothing more to see here, kids, just move along.
So yeah, I guess this write-up has been a bit of a kick in the pants, but really, I think there was some potential with this group to maybe branch out and be a little more experimental, or maybe even become MORE generic and then they might have had some radio-friendly hits on their hands. Either way, the album was a fun listen in my teenage years, and now it’s serving quite well as today’s update here at Album Du Jour, where we kick ALL KINDS of obscure music in the pants.