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Apologetix: Adam Up
Sound/Style: Christian-themed parodies of rock, pop and country hits
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- Rock- and pop-styled music has proven its staying power as a tool for Christian ministry, though some still question its appropriateness while others insist Christian rock is a flimsy pretender that fails as a vehicle for youth evangelism. Apologetix are here to throw a whole new light on the subject, or at least considerably muddy up the arguments. In a novel spin, the band parodies well-known pop and rock (and even a few country) songs, adding lyrics that draw from various Biblical themes and stories. This approach, if done with a surplus of gee-whiz zeal – or worse, without musical credibility – would be laughed off in a New York nanosecond. On their 22-track disc Adam Up, Apologetix take their rightful place among hilarious parody masters like "Weird" Al Yankovic, but all for the glory of God.
J. Jackson is a called and equipped minister of musical mirth who clearly has a knack for finding Bible teaching and preaching possibilities otherwise hidden in music you’d never dream of using in church. Jackson takes on material spanning several decades and genres, from The Everly Brothers ("Wake Up Talitha Cumi") to Jimmy Eat World, whose churning 2003 hit "The Middle" becomes "The Spittle," a review of Jesus’ peculiar use of saliva as a cure for blindness. There are too many ingeniously reworked tunes here to name, but highlights include a K.C. and The Sunshine Band send-up ("are you a little lamb?/maybe a little lost?/get found tonight!), a rewrite of The B-52s "Love Shack" that retells the tale of "Meshach" and a statement of purpose, "We’re In A Parody Band," done to Grand Funk’s "We’re An American Band."
Not only is this an effective way to impart Bible teachings and bring some welcome humor into the Christian life, but the disarming and funny lyrics can send home an urgent message, as on a convicting remake of Sam the Sham’s "Little Red Riding Hood" that goes something like this: "Little-read Bible book/you sure have been forsook/you’re never read, so big bad wolves can roam – literally!" If there’s a weak point, it’s only that the lyrics are sometimes hard to understand (and almost as difficult to decipher in their tiny type fonts), potentially lessening their potency in a live setting
While the parodies themselves are excellently crafted, what really puts it across is the band’s ability to believably recreate virtually every style they tackle. Special credit must go to guitarist Karl Vaughn Messner, who, for example, pulls off verbatim Lynyrd Skynyrd licks and captures the perfect guitar tone for each song. Lyricist Jackson is a talented mimic, nailing singers from Toby Keith to the Scottish siblings The Proclaimers, right down to their idiosyncratic dialects, on "I’m Gonna Feed (500 Mouths)." He’s especially convincing doing hard rock voices like Judas Priest’s guttural Rob Halford and Ozzy Osbourne, whose own "Crazy Train" is flipped into "Lazy Brain," a cutting but hopeful look at the Oz’s lifestyle and spiritual orientation. The song namechecks converted Christian shock-rocker Alice Cooper and reasons that if God could save Alice, He could still handle Ozzy as well. This redemptive use of heavy metal – perhaps the most controversial style among religious groups – seems especially clever, if not flat-out ironic. For those who believe there’s inherent darkness in such music, God just found another way to use evil for good – as well as a doggoned good time – on Adam Up, a record you can, er, count on for edifying laughs.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.