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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Unite

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Unite
Sounds like … the best of Christian music's premier ska rock band, taking their inspiration from bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Operation Ivy, and SelecterAt a glance … Unite is a fitting finale for the much-loved Supertones, offering twenty of the band's best tracks on a single discTrack ListingSupertones Strike BackUniteAdonai (new)Away from YouReturn of the RevolutionWho Can Be Against Me?Little ManGroundedOld FriendWhat It Comes ToResolutionO.C. Supertones (new)SuperflyWe Shall OvercomeWelcome HomeJury DutyChase the SunPrince of PeaceUnknownWilderness

The O.C. Supertones began in 1995 just in time to ride the ska rock revival of the decade, quickly becoming a success as Christian music's premier ska band only months before Five Iron Frenzy and The Insyderz. But once ska started to become passé, this "rock with horns" band faced the challenge of evolving—and maturing—to a sound that would outlive the fading genre. They managed the evolution with some success, but after ten years, six studio recordings and one live album, the band has called it quits—but not before leaving fans with a farewell album.

Unite is a 20-track, 70-minute compilation that appropriately encapsulates the band's musical history into a single CD. One of the weaknesses of Supertones albums over the years is that they began to sound much like the same thing over and over. Unite is pretty much just the essentials, and that'll suit most people as a heaping helping of the band's ska rock. And by emphasizing the best tracks, the collection ends up with more sonic variety than the usual Supertones disc. Sure, there's plenty of ska rock with "Who Can Be Against Me," "Resolution," and the band's signature song "Supertones Strike Back." But there's also the heavier sound of "Return of the Revolution," the funkier "Chase the Sun," the sunny acoustic pop of "Old Friend," and the call-and-response worshipful reggae of "Away from You," featuring Crystal Lewis.

What becomes clear from listening to Unite is that The Supertones did their best to try and adjust their sound slightly with every album. The trick was to do it in a way that demonstrated musical growth without alienating their fans. The band successfully dabbled with pop and reggae on 1999's Chase the Sun. 2000's Loud and Clear was a mixed bag with its hardcore and hip-hop inclinations—some called it their best, others their worst. 2002's Hi-Fi Revival generated a similarly mixed response, with some saying that The Supertones strayed too far from their ska roots by embracing a classic Blues Brothers rock 'n' soul style. It was simply too little, too familiar, too late by the time The Supertones returned to ska in 2004 with Revenge of the Supertones.

Yet what a fun compilation the band has created as a result of the slight stylistic shifts. And the one thing that remains constant in all of these songs is the band's personalized expression of faith—a unique blend of overtly evangelical lyrics that were often fun and occasionally interspersed with witty social commentary. The Supertones were the perfect band for youth groups, and they were at their best with the sing-along choruses found in "Little Man," "Away from You," "Resolution," and "Who Can Be Against Me." Unite also benefits from a simple-but-beautiful CD package with gold and platinum color scheme, photos of the band throughout their career, and a nostalgic recap from lead singer Matt "Mojo" Morginsky about The Supertones' start—they truly were at the right place and time with the ska revival and the reemergence of Christian rock in Southern California.

Unite is rather skimpy with new material for fans, only offering two new recordings of songs from the first Supertones disc. "O.C. Supertones" does sound much brighter and more modern than it did originally. The same is true for the popular single "Adonai," which also offers a lot of shout outs to other Christian bands that the Supertones grew up with, as well as a cute lyric change to acknowledge a small crush on Rebecca St. James. Unite also shortchanges the newer material, presenting four songs from each of the first four albums, but only two songs from both Hi-Fi Revival and Revenge. Maybe this isn't inappropriate since these discs marked the beginning of the end.

Regardless, Unite earns high marks as a best-of album that's done right. It's more than enough Supertones for the casual fan and a fitting finale for longtime listeners. Too bad the band members didn't just simply take time off to pursue side projects and such, leaving the door open for a reunion someday when ska inevitably revives again. Or maybe that's what The Supertones are already planning.


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