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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

dc Talk -- Supernatural

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7/10

My mom loved dc Talk. By the time Supernatural came out, I had my own car and was blasting The Dismemberment Plan from my windows, but I sometimes caught a ride with my mom to church, and sure enough, she always had dc Talk's swansong playing. I guess those songs must have burrowed into my head because I recently felt compelled to pick up Supernatural for myself (found it used on Amazon for under $1). It was worth the money (It wasn't $1 wasted).
Listening to dc Talk's Supernatural now, it's easy to tell that the group was not long for this world. There's a finality to the songs, and a feeling that the trio of Toby, Tait, and Kevin have gone as far along together as they could. The album cover is a picture of a futuristic television set, featuring a ship sailing off into the sunset.
Supernatural begins on a bit of a surprising note, with evocative acoustic guitar strumming. This soon gives way to an electric attack, but for the first few tracks, it feels like all bets are off. "Dive" is about as close to goth as dc Talk can get. "Consume Me" might be their most textured, powerful, and passionate song of praise yet. "My Friend" is a little obnoxious, possibly the most rocking song dc Talk has done, but also perhaps the poppiest, with "Nah, Nah, Nahs" in full employ. From here, things get a little more rote. "Fearless," "Godsend," and "Wanna Be Loved" are all your basic Adult Contemporary Pop-Rock (I would have tagged those songs wtih more genres if I could), as done by dc Talk. The next song, "The Truth is Out There" is more interesting and mysterious. The group originally recorded the song for the first X-Files film, and while "The Truth is Out There" didn't make the cut, it's easy to hear it and imagine that franchise, especially in the big booming bridge that fades into atmospherics.
"Since I Met You" can be characterized as nothing more than a misstep, a reminder that dc Talk should never, ever try to make punk music. Toby Mac had a little more success in this vein later on (poppy, poppy success), but these three guys together should have steered far clear. "Into Jesus" is another atmospheric song, and if one can get past its kind of silly chorus, it's not half bad.
The title track really seems to embody what dc Talk were going for with this album. It rocks a little harder than they usual do, it has a lot of atmosphere, and it features very full production. "Red Letters" is a ballad, but quite a good one. It picks up very nicely in the second half of its six-minute run (it's the longest song dc Talk ever recorded), and really sends the trio off into a bold horizon.
Supernatural concludes with "There Is a Treason at Sea," a dark and hopeful Kevin Max poem set to ambient noise. It tellingly begins with the phrase, "I am solo in this world of water..."
So there you go. DC Talk end their career on a high note--not the highest they've hit, but not a low one either. When it made sense to quit, dc Talk did it, and there is certainly something to be said for that. Of course, Toby, Tait, and K Max are all still alive, still friends, and still doing their own thing. Though they are in their mid-40's now, a reunion isn't out of the question. I have to say, it would be interesting.
And instead of bringing this all around to the first paragraph, I will end with this.
Listen to this beautiful song at the 4:03 mark.  Does it not sound like someone is saying the word "Satan?" (Which makes the line "I am consumed with Satan")

I've always heard it as that. Now I know the guys in this band are die-hard Christians and not Satanists in the least, but maybe a bored sound engineer threw that in there to spite the group? There was a big argument about this on Amazon 13 years ago. I am sure there is a good story behind it. Doesn't diminish the song in the least.

1998 ForeFront
1. Intro 0:24
2. It's Killing Me 3:56
3. Dive 4:21
4. Consume Me 4:50
5. My Friend (So Long) 4:11
6. Fearless 5:07
7. Godsend 4:14
8. Wanna Be Loved 4:15
9. The Truth 4:25
10. Since I Met You 5:00
11. Into Jesus 4:19
12. Supernatural 4:00
13. Red Letters 6:06
14. There Is a Treason at Sea 1:40

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