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Soundtrack to a Revolution

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Nov
Soundtrack to a Revolution
Sounds like … an infectious blend of ska, pop, and punk akin to Less Than Jake, The O.C. Supertones, The Suicide Machines, and Five Iron FrenzyAt a glance … after a three-year hiatus, The Insyderz return to the Motor City sound that drove the late 90s ska revival, while at times expanding upon more cutting edge ideas

When grunge music was dying down and swing was starting up, the alternative music underground had another trick up its sleeve: Take a rock and roll base, cross it with a horn section, add a reggae tint—and call it "ska." To the Green Day generation, ska became the latest fad. In both mainstream and Christian circles, a slew of bands latched onto the sound (and the accompanying black-and-white checkerboard dress code), including The O.C. Supertones, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Five Iron Frenzy—and Detroit's Insyderz. They went on to release four hit-producing albums, most notably their pair of Skalleluia worship projects.

But like any modern wave of music, the ska sound was soon replaced with harder-driving rhythms and the nü-metal sound. Many of ska's key acts fell by the wayside, or—like Less Than Jake and the Supertones—modified their sound to stay up with the times. The Insyderz, meanwhile, just took some time off, focusing more on local ministry opportunities and starting families. It's been three years since then, but now the group has reunited for a new CD on Floodgate Records (owned by former manager Tim Tabor).

The ten songs on Soundtrack to a Revolution find the group caught between who they used to be and where they are today. At times, they sound like a dated throwback to five years ago; other times, they sound incredibly in touch with a teenage audience. The disc starts on the latter note with the horn heavy title cut's razor sharp guitars and Joe Yerke's roughnecked vocals. Royce Nunley, the former Suicide Machines singer, produces, and his influence is apparent, crossing his pop/punk sensibilities with his aggressive Warped tour mindset. "Call To Arms" is a brash punk rocker reminiscent of MxPx or Green Day, calling Christians to actively live out their faith. "Shoot Out" is the album's most explosive rocker, while "Shame on Me," gentle in comparison, features Yerke's singing (rather than screaming) over toned down horns.

On the downside, "Testimony" seeps with exaggerated horn arrangements and contrived cheerfulness, while "Chosen Few" is stuck in a time warp, sounding like the Bosstones' Let's Face It. "Another Sleepless Night," bogged down with immature arrangements, features Yerke's gravely voiced analysis of getting older which, given a teen audience, will shoot straight over their heads. Although "God Almighty" is fine sonically, its overly religious lyrics are recited in a cheesy, cheer-like tone.

Another downfall is the project's relatively short length; at 30 minutes, it's closer to an EP than a full project. In several instances (particularly "Call To Arms," "Soundtrack to a Revolution," and "Shoot Out"), the band could have jammed a bit longer, further building the fist-waving potential. A few additional cuts also would have helped—perhaps even a few worship tunes in the tradition of the Skalleluia series.

Despite being no better than they were before, The Insyderz still offer valuable assets to today's fans—despite a primary sound that was best received five years ago. It's clear these guys are at least attempting to remain relevant. It's hard to gauge if Soundtrack to a Revolution will mark The Insyderz' official return or if it's just a one-off, though either way longtime fans yearning for more ska-rock will probably be receptive. If the band decides to press on following this release, hopefully they'll mature with a slightly more proportionate balance of their influential roots and the current cultural climate.