- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Nov
I was ecstatic when I learned earlier this year that All Star United was still alive and kicking, with plans to release their third studio album, Revolution. Here was one of the best bands from late '90s Christian music, back from the missing-in-action list. At the heart of the band is Ian Eskelin, who began his music career as an early member of Code of Ethics and who later released two modest solo efforts. Those albums painted Ian as a Christian version of Howard Jones and Erasure – melodic electronic pop – so it was a pleasant surprise when Ian re-emerged in 1997 as frontman for a guitar-based modern rock band. All Star United's self-titled debut remains one of my favorite albums of the '90s, balancing wit and humor that rivals Steve Taylor and Newsboys with vertically focused lyrics that express adoration to the Lord. The band was capable of rocking hard and loud while retaining strong pop sensibilities and impossibly catchy melodies. They were Christian music's answer to Oasis and Third Eye Blind, with more fun and purpose and a sound truly their own. All Star United went on to release 1998's
Actually, it's inaccurate to say "the band" is back. Ian has always been the core to All Star's sound, and he is really the only connecting thread between
The question is, was it worth the wait? As a long-time fan, I can't help but be disappointed with this project, but not because All Star United has changed its style. In fact,
It also should be noted that the band lineup I described earlier must be in reference to the touring band. The foursome only play together on the album's "Let It Rain (I'm Gonna Shine)," a peppy rocker that bears resemblance to the previous hit "Bright Red Carpet." As you might guess, it's a song about keeping the faith through the darkest times. Ian, drummer Matt, producer Richard, longtime friend Steve Hindalong (The Choir, City, on a Hill) and a number of other studio musicians perform the rest of the album. Not that it makes that much difference – you wouldn't be able to tell if you didn't read the production credits. "Kings and Queens" also sounds a lot like "Bright Red Carpet," metaphorically explaining that we are heirs to God's kingdom because of Christ: "I was the epitome / The jester of stupidity / Until you turned my life around." "Made in Heaven" is virtually a thematic and melodic remake of the last album's "If We Were Lovers," romantically expressing our eternal relationship with Jesus.
"Making It Beautiful" is a forgettable two-minute ballad that prayerfully asks God to change our hearts and be more like him. Then there's "Weirdo," which shows some of the old band's spark and silliness, but its message is certain to confuse most listeners. The verses express a number of popular urban legends, only to lead to a chorus that states, "I'm a weirdo for knowin' what I know / I'm a weirdo, whatever floats your boat / I'm a weirdo, I know I believe in You." I can only assume Ian is trying to liken faith in God to belief in other mysteries in life for the sake of non-believers, but the connection is poorly made. Better results are found in the title track, which has as infectious a melody as anything on the first album, though the lyrical content is little more than a wake-up call for the world to find Jesus. "Sweet Jesus," the album's first single, is a prayer of healing that's also vintage All Star United. It's good, but it's similar to past hits "Savior of My Universe" and "Thank You, Goodnight."