Steve Taylor

On the Fritz

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Widely regarded as contemporary Christian music's best lyricist, Steve Taylor resembles Leonard Cohen in that his music takes a definite back seat to his smart and witty wordslinging. Taylor, though, is as much comedian as poet. While On the Fritz feels a little less like a novelty record than his previous albums, several of the songs are still essentially satirical sketches with musical accompaniment. In "Lifeboat," for example, Taylor adopts a pepper pot falsetto and portrays a female headmistress who teaches her students the superficial values of a culture obsessed with physical beauty. When Taylor does sing, he usually employs one of two character voices (one a high-pitched, manic nasal yell, the other a sinister deep-throated affectation). The effect is almost that of a substantive Weird Al Yankovic, but Taylor's genius with words extends beyond his razor-sharp comic timing. He also has the ability to communicate insights of some wisdom and depth with originality and power. The Joe Walsh-esque pop on this album doesn't demonstrate that as well as his later albums (particularly the sweepingly cinematic I Predict 1990 and the fragmented poetry he wrote with Chagall Gueverra). But in moments like the jangly U2 pop anthem "I Forgive," On the Fritz shows signs that Taylor's range of expression was steadily expanding.

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