SQUINT SQUINT: Movies From The Soundtrack-Video Steve Taylor Warner Alliance [4 "Records"/Stars]

Syndicate Magazine
May 1994, Volume 9, Issue 1
© 1994 Syndicate Publications, Inc.
Pages 32-33

Steve Taylor is back: Lock up your misguided ideals, your useless traditions, your cliched and cloned Christianity. Hold those Jim and Tammy Bakker records and that Sweating To Jimmy Swaggert workout video. Be gone with your easy targets, because the crowned king of sarcasm is here to parody hearty.

This is the man who used to make us laugh so much it hurt (or was that hurt so much we laughed?). But, this clown's make-up always covered many of the church's ugly truths. It was like going through a 12-step program at a night at The Improv.

But is Taylor still a wild and crazy guy after the unfunny stint with secular alternative rockers Chagall Guevara? The answer to that is Yes and No.

Watch the video Squint: Movies From The Soundtrack and you'll see a bit of that old Taylor zaniness as he and his cronies called the "Swat Team" hunt down a gang of trespassing bees in the studio. Or read the lyric sheet for the song "Cash Cow": "The Golden Cash Cow had a body like the great cows of Ancient Egypt / And a face like the fact of Robert Tilton (without the horns) / And through the centuries it has roamed the earth like a ravenous bovine seeking whom it may lick."

Yet, with "Jesus Is For Losers" Taylor waxes serious about the losers (us) the Savior came to die for. What follows may be a reflection on his experiences with the band Chagall Guevara and its commercial failure. "If I was groping / Groping Around for some ladder to fame / I am ashamed / If I was hoping / Hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool / I am a fool." Make no mistake, Taylor's not joking around here.

Even with "Bannerman," a song about the guy you see at sporting events with bed sheet scriptures like John 3:16 begging for the camera's eye, is just the kind of subject Taylor would have shredded in days past. But Bannerman is the hero here, and not the dupe. Taylor sings like one who wishes he had the guts to brave the cold winter Sunday as this banner-bearer does.

Taylor's 45 minute video, which follows him around the world with a beat, includes little in the way of concepts, but proves beyond the shadow of a doubt Taylor enjoys wearing loose fitting clothes and turns a mean cartwheel. Only "Cash Cow," with its dark foreboding black and white look and clay figures, attempts to tell a story--and leaves the viewer wondering what Gumby would have been like if Kafka had written it.

This travelogue is great for the house-bound, what with its scenic views of Taylor cartwheeling through England, end-over-end in Vietnam, and head-over-heels in Turkey. It rarely attempts to connect with the songs, except when Taylor chases a sheep in "Jesus Is For Losers" or when one sees colorful socks floating earthward towards a river in "Sock Heaven."

Squint features the same pounding drums and full-sounding guitars that made Chagall Guevara such a rock & roll listening pleasure. Its only missteps are on the phony white-boy reggae of "Easy Listening" and the herky-jerky new wavy rhythms of "Bannerman." The lonesome guitar riff of "Jesus Is For Losers" and the grand-slam-fest rock of "The Moshing Floor" are just a few of the musical highlights.

We now have a new and improved Steve Taylor, one who's ventured outside of the ethnocentric confines of the Christian culture's claustrophobia illustrated by this video's international locale. Taylor has also learned to be low-key. He doesn't always need fireworks to light up a room; sometimes a simple candle and a profile is all that's needed. He also doesn't need to always be the life of the party.

And he's still got it. He is still able to poke fun at the peculiar group of people who call themselves Christians. Unlike many class clowns, though, he knows when to say when.

Dan MacIntosh