Steve Taylor Bio / Squint Press Release

September 1993

" you squint with the light of truth in your eyes."
"The Finish Line"
--Steve Taylor

As the title of his new album Squint makes clear, for Steve Taylor it always comes down to vision. It's been five long years since the man Newsweek called "evangelical rock's court jester" made the surprise announcement during a Southern California concert that he was "retiring" as a solo artist. He did it abruptly, without even so much as a teary-eyed press conference followed by a Forty City Farewell Tour. No career threatening ailments rumored. No domestic strife present. No better job offers elsewhere (obviously). No hard feelings. It was simply a matter of that vision thing.

"I hope that nobody thought I was angry or disenchanted," says Taylor looking back. "At the time, I really didn't think my decision to retire needed an explanation. I'd had seven good years, always with a strong sense of purpose and of what my music was meant to be about. But, towards the end, I was feeling the pressure that to keep selling a lot of records, I'd need to conform more. It was just time to try something else."

After a brief stint living in London (with Debbie, his wife of eight years), Taylor opted to form an alternative rock band with some fellow unemployed believers. Basing themselves in Nashville, they played the southern club circuit under the moniker Chagall Guevara ("probably our first mistake"). They signed a recording deal with MCA, and despite considerable critical acclaim and a very strong showing on the college radio charts, failed to strike gold ("I think our album went Double Formica").

But, for Taylor, who lived modestly even during his salad days as a solo artist, the mounting discontent within the band wasn't a matter of finances. It was that continuing pesky matter of vision. "I was talking with my pastor, who, despite being a self-confessed fan of Chagall Guevara, suggested to me that we'd probably done a better job defining who we weren't as a band than who we were. For me, he got it right. I was restless for a sense of mission, and the band was beginning to feel more like our hobby."

Taylor went back to writing songs on his own again, something he hadn't attempted in five years. When it came time to record, he decided for the first time to produce the project himself. The resulting album, Squint, is a clear-eyed, cutting edge statement of belief.

"Yeah, I must admit that I'm pretty happy with the results," says Taylor. "For some reason, I didn't have to dig around for inspiration or sweat about the themes to write on. I was able to get the songs on tape before they could start talking back."

Musically, Squint is at once a daring reentry and a logical extension of who Steve Taylor is. Guitars rule, from the buzzsaw riffs that drive "The Lament..." to the feedback that fire "The Moshing Floor." Tracks like "Curses" and "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera in Three Small Acts)" revel in amazing sonic assault, while "Sock Heaven" and "Smug" dance and weave their way around. But it's the melodies that keep surprising the listener at every turn, from the breezy "Bannerman" to the emotionally- charged "The Finish Line," making Taylor's most experimental album to date also his most accessible. With Squint, Steve Taylor successfully expands the boundaries of alternative music by refusing to play inside the old format-defining fences. ("I was originally going to call this album 'The Kitchen Sink,' since I was ready to try anything in the studio that didn't involve doing dishes afterwards.")

As always, Taylor's lyrics place him in a category all his own, and his time away from gospel music hasn't dulled his wit, as the album's first cut, "The Lament of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Frederick IV," aptly demonstrates:

Ah, the news of my impending death
came at a really bad time for me...

In talking about the song, Taylor explains, "The character in the title just got word that it's time to buy the old pinewood pajamas, and, in his understated English way, he's having second thoughts about all the time he has spent in various self-help movements trying to get in touch with his feelings. Reality keeps intruding in the choruses, courtesy of the still, small voice of God":

Desi Ray, if I may be so blunt
Galahad, bag your agnostic front
Underwood, hire a good undertaker
Freddie, get ready to meet your maker

In "Smug," the "cultural/intellectual elite in both corners of the ideological boxing ring," take a good natured beating. Taylor keeps swinging in the epic mock-opera "Cash Cow" which traces the love of money back to its B.C. roots in the Sinai Desert:

from the valley of the shadow of the outlet mall
to the customized pet-wear boutique
from the trailer of the fry chef
to the palace of the sheik
the cash cow lurks

When asked about the story behind "Bannerman," Taylor quickly disavows himself of any satirical intent. "It's meant to be a tribute. I read about these guys who go around holding up John 3:16 at sporting events and I sort of liked the idea; letting the Bible speak for itself, simple and direct. I'm sure some people get annoyed by that sort of thing, like when Greenpeace hangs banners off bridges. But, hey, I like listening to street corner preachers, too. They've got more nerve than I do."

he don't worry 'bout the critics--they've met their match
he don't worry 'bout the cynics--they sniff and scratch
he ain't gonna change the world
but he knows who can

Perhaps the most striking departure from Taylor's lyrical past can be found in the trio of songs that form the emotional center of the album. "My lyrics don't usually get very personal; maybe it's because I can't play acoustic guitar," jokes Taylor. "But I suppose 'Sock Heaven' is the closest I've come to a straight autobiography. I just wanted to write about the last five years and do it in a song under five minutes. There are aspects of the same thing in 'Jesus Is For Losers,' which was not an easy song to get on paper."

if I was groping
groping for some ladder to fame
I am ashamed
if I was hoping
hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool
I am a fool
bone weary every climb
blindsided every time
Just as I am
I am stiff-necked and proud
Jesus is for losers
why do I still play to the crowd?

Finally, when asked about his soul stirring "The Finish Line," Taylor replies, "It may be the closest I've come in a song to writing something that really moves me on a gut level. I wrote it hoping it might help out some friends, but it's got a fair amount of my own sweat and blood mixed in."

off in the distance, bloodied but wise
as you squint with the light of the truth in your eyes
and I saw you, both hands were raised
and I saw your lips move in praise
and I saw you steady your gaze
for the finish line

In following his own muse, Steve Taylor's field of vision extends far beyond being simply a musician. Although he'd become well known for directing his own videso in the past, his current long form project is perhaps the most ambitious video undertaking that gospel music has seen to date. Armed with a 35mm movie camera and a small film crew, Taylor recently completed principal photography for videos of six songs from Squint during an amazing around-the-world filming expedition. The first week Taylor and company found themselves in Hanoi, Viet Nam filming "The Finish Line" (which happens to be the first music video ever filmed in that country). "Sock Heaven" was shot in Katmandu, Nepal, in the shadow of the Himalayas, while Hong Kong, Bangkok, and the Turkish countryside provided backdrops for "Bannerman" and "Smug". On to the British Isles where "Jesus Is For Losers" was filmed in various pastoral settings in the south of England and Ireland. Taylor is currently hard at work editing the 15,000 feet of film for an early '94 release. If Taylor's previous media work is any indication, this video will be a "must see."

In the Spring of '94, Steve Taylor will be hitting the road again after a six year hiatus to bring his manic, breathless brand of live performance to a city near everyone. In addition to fulfilling numerous North American dates, an extensive international itinerary is being mapped out. Included in the band (as of this writing) will be Wade Jaynes on bass and Mike Mead on drums, both fellow alumni of Chagall Guevara.

From the groundbreaking days of I Want To Be A Clone to one of the all-time biggest selling rock albums in CCM history, Meltdown, to his much anticipated return to gospel music, Squint, Steve Taylor's vision has always remained bold, unflinching, and very alive, consistently striving to reflect the light of God's truth. And, with this new album, even if just a little light gets through, it will no doubt be bright enough to make you Squint.

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