Goliath: A Song By Song Description

November 17th, 2013
© 2014 NewReleaseTuesday.com
Web site

Christian music icon Steve Taylor shares with NRT the stories behind the songs from his band's latest album, Goliath.

By NRTeamAdmin

A SONG BY SONG DESCRIPTION, Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil Steve Taylor

Only a Ride

This was the first song we wrote together as a band. Our guiding light was the old saying--slightly amended--"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blues." Which, come to think of it, describes most of my favorite rock tracks. Regarding the lyrics: It's the American way to assume our citizenship somehow entitles us to invincibility, as if bad things aren't supposed to happen to our kind. So we're shocked when they do. Remember James Brolin in Westworld? It's an amusement park full of gun-slinging robots shooting blanks, and he suddenly grabs his chest and says to his partner, 'I'm shot!'

Double Negative

I remember when Jimmy started playing this riff, we were all hypnotized by the sound, although the 7/4 time signature keeps it from being too hypnotic. The lyric, like most of them, isn't necessarily autobiographical, but I think I understand a character who doubles down on negative emotions like misery, which tend to be more controllable and, therefore, repeatable than happiness or joy. My favorite line is "Bells are ringing/Is it Easter or the start of an earthquake?" This guy can't even accept the sound of church bells at face value--is something being reborn, or is their peal earthquake-induced, and things are about to go very badly?


I think at least half the band served time in high school marching band, and as we were writing this one, it kept wanting to be something that could be played at halftime. So John laid down the horn section and the lyric naturally followed--it seemed like something perennial losers would sing to get themselves amped up for the possibility they could actually win one. The title came after the song was finished. I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants," and as we were mixing the song, I heard the lyrics again and thought that if we titled this "Goliath," it might add an interesting subtext. There wasn't any specific intent to naming the album "Goliath" beyond the fact that we get a perverse enjoyment taking on projects where the odds aren't in our favor.


Are we in a place in music history where Prince-ian is as allowable as Beatlesque? (Because evidently we can't rip off Marvin Gaye anymore.) If so, this track has two godfathers: Prince and the Pixies. Lyrically, so many experiences I've had are a mix of wild ambition tempered with complete delusion. Then when a few delusions actually go your way, you become more delusional, thinking that's how it's always going to go. Those of us working in the arts, whether it's music or movie-making, attach a lot of importance, and, usually, self-importance, to the work we're doing, as if the hopes of a nation ride on the outcome--I think it's because if we didn't, we'd never finish anything. I have a great friend and filmmaking mentor who often reminds me, "There's no such thing as an entertainment emergency."


The idea that a soul could live online--a virtual soul--seemed interesting. The first verse deals with voyeurism, which quickly shape-shifts into a whole new world of hurt. That "Instagram" line came after the song was done--I didn't want to reference anything as ephemeral as a social media app, but I couldn't give up coupling Instagram-Aww with Grandma.

The Sympathy Vote

We were almost wrapped with the album when we decided we needed an eleventh song. The music came quickly, with John's bass playing doing much of the heavy lifting, but it needed a lyric, and since we'd almost called the band The Sympathy Vote, and since our rejected band names had proven to be a wellspring of lyrics, the words came quickly. "There's only three things in life of any certainly: Number one is death, number two is taxes, number three is professional jealousy." A lot of life's screw-ups, including the ones that force this character to pile apologies on apologies, are based on the greatest unacknowledged source of misery in the world--professional jealousy.

Standing in Line

I don't think I've ever written a wholly biographical song. Part of the thrill of writing comes in mixing fact and fiction in varying combinations. But those of us who have enjoyed long and mostly happy marriages--all four of us are still married to our original wives--know that any relationship lasting decades goes through ebbs and flows. This was written during one of the ebbs."

In Layers

Jimmy came up with the riff, Peter started pounding the drums, and poof--a song is born. The paranoia expressed in the lyric seems apt for the age we live in--when it comes to corporate or political structures, cynicism is so richly rewarded. Hopefully the song retains some idealistic sense that this may be how the world works, but we don't have to live that way."

Happy Go Lazy

Can't you hear a country singer doing this song? I would have loved to hear George Jones sing it. We batted this track around for months in the studio, as we weren't sure it fit on the album, but when I proposed the title, the band seemed keen on it. The character in this song has achieved a blissfully ambitionless state, and we wanted to give him the courage of his convictions. My favorite line is, "No, I'm not listening--your friends are correct. I've got zero ambition and I want your respect."

A Life Preserved

This first appeared as the end titles track on the Blue Like Jazz movie. Our band and that movie have a tangled past--the band was initially started because I'd spent three years trying to raise money to fund Blue Like Jazz and was getting nowhere. So I called Peter up and suggested we do something together musically to help soothe my utter frustration as a filmmaker. We got the album well underway, then the movie was miraculously funded by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign started by fans of the project, which forced a two year band hiatus so I could make and promote the movie. The song is a straight up gospel song born from the sense of gratitude I felt at finally being able to make the movie into which I'd invested so many years. But it's also a song of deliverance from the delusion of attaching ultimate importance to anything temporal.


I started this song twenty years ago and have been working on the lyric ever since--I doubt a week ever passed when it wasn't rolling around in my head. The form seemed so rich with possibilities, like an intricate puzzle, and I just didn't want to screw it up. When I brought it to the band, it was very sparse, but we turned it into a pretty epic track in the studio, which inspired the more ambitious lyrical dialectic with God. This one was a bit like making a movie: long gestation, multiple false starts, fiercely trying to protect the essential idea, and praying something tolerable comes out the other end. There are so many ways these things can go wrong, so when they go right it feels like a miracle

Posted November 17, 2014 | Long time friends and frequent creative collaborators, Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil (Jimmy Abegg, guitar; John Mark Painter, bass; Peter Furler, drums) is a natural assemblage of diverse talents. Their debut album together, Goliath released November 18, 2014.