Monday, January 15, 2024

God-haunted music: Model Engine/ The World is a Beautiful Place, and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

 I don't know how I ever missed these two bands:

1)Model Engine

See this from Rhett Smith:

“In 1995 I was standing in the cleared out sanctuary of a church waiting for the headlining Christian band to come up and play. Christian music, at least in the small band, alternative format, was in its prime, and there didn’t seem to be one weekend that went by where there weren’t Christian alternative bands playing in my hometown of Phoenix, AZ. But this night was different. Everyone came out to see the opening band, a local favorite, and between their set and the headlining act, almost everyone went home. Hundreds of kids left, and there were only a handful of us in the room. And I mean, probably 50-60 people.

We were waiting for this band that we had never heard of before, and we figured, well, we might as well stay around. Three guys walk up to the stage, and as they began to play, we knew that we had never heard anything like them before…from the music…and especially to iframe style="border: 0; width: 350px; height: 786px;" src="" seamless>The Lean Years Tradition by Model Engine
the lyrics. It was a transformative show. And who was this band?” Black Eyed Sceva, who went on to become Model Engine" . link

t wasn’t so much a departure in sound but rather an upgrade in sound production, songwriting, and that full band sound complete with different instrumentation and backing features. With the sound of this record there was absolutely no reason this couldn’t have been the biggest release of the late 90’s. I’ve praised this album a lot over the years and I count myself as a big fan of the band. Switchfoot were just starting to take off around this time and I could have seen the two bands touring together in the years that followed but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Although I do remember seeing both bands at some mini-fest in the abandoned department store of an old mall near us that was getting remodeled. I don’t know the whole story regarding the end of the band and one day I will interview Jeremy Post about it but it was always a sad part of our scene to lose a group of guys that were intensely talented and passionate about what they did. They were in terms of lyrics, lightyears ahead of many other bands at that time (except for their label mates FIF who always seemed to pull out an endless supply of witty and thought-provoking words). So, long story short, the fantastic 1997 album by Model Engine is now finally available on all digital networks for the first time. Head over to Spotify and Apple Music right now and check out Model Engine “The Lean Years Tradition”. The band members themselves are responsible for the re-release and all support goes to them. The album has been remixed/Remastered as well. Enjoy! link

    Interview with frontman:

Linda - You never liked religion much.

Jeremy - (laughs) No, but I think traveling has been the best thing for me. It's nice to see how other Christians serve the Lord. God uses people in so many different areas and walks of life. If I just sit out in my house in California and that's all I see, I get a pretty limited view. So it's nice to go across the states, or go to Europe and see how Christians adapt to their environment, finding the different ways people serve. 

Linda - Your new material has more graphic language. "Reeberbahn," for example, is about your encounter with a prostitute before going on stage in Hamburg, Germany. Why do you choose such harsh subject matter?

Jeremy - That's not something we've tried to do. I've been writing songs for a long time, and a lot of people considered the songs that ended up on our albums abrasive because of the things they talked about. What I thought was pretty nice and mellow, people thought was on the edge of being too graphic. As I've matured, I've come to think that life is graphic and abrasive a lot of times. If you're going to be writing songs about that, you have to bring those elements in or you're not being honest. That's why I appreciate Vigilantes of Love so much because Bill Mallonee writes so poetically about real struggles. 

We definitely are in the Christian market. We end up playing with bands, though, whose thing is writing songs that are more at home in a church--talking about Jesus, praising the Lord with terms that are easy for the Christian community to swallow--whereas I would hope that our music praises God in a way that is real. I see life, I see the down side of it, and I go, "Wow! God's doing a work here?" If I can convey the way that I see God glorified, I think that will glorify God all the more, but it's not going  to be cheerleading other people to praise the Lord. Our job, our calling is to say, "This is my life. This is my experience, and here's how God worked through this experience to change me." Hopefully, that will be reflected in our music. Link

Lyrics to "Reeperbahn":

on a curb with hamburg's dust under my shoe
 things for sale as black as hell in pyrite's golden hue
 there's a ten-foot high window display for something bittersweet
 a book shop sets my backdrop on a busy port town street 

there's a cigarette stuck in the mouth of an overpainted..

on a curb in hamburg watching the junkies 
zigzag breathing something mysterious
 into an otherwise empty bag outside the shops that never close
 on a moonless, starless night across from where the harlots pose
 beneath a block-wide neon light 
there's a cigarette stuck in the mouth of an overpainted whore
 and she comes so close i can smell the smoke and she makes a quote for the price of her wares


2)The World is a Beautiful Place, and I Am No Longer  Afraid To Die

Start with the closing song/suite on "Illusory Walls": "Fewer Afraid". 

Excerpt from Spotify:
Sometimes, the best place to begin is at the end. If you really want to dig deep into Illusory Walls, the fourth album by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, it definitely helps to do that. That’s because epic closer “Fewer Afraid”—all 19 minutes, 44 seconds of it—doesn’t just revisit the themes and ideas on the ten songs that precede it, but also offers a self-aware summary of the Connecticut band’s entire history. It’s the conclusion of all the stories within the record as well as a nod to all the lives that helped make them—little glimpses of everything that’s come before, on both a micro, immediate level, and a more universal one.
“That song is a higher level look at my whole life and the whole world,” explains vocalist/guitarist David F. Bello, “as well as the album, our band, and our discography. It places the band in the context of the rest of the world as if we’re listening to everything that came before. It touches on all the themes of the previous songs, but there are also callbacks to songs from earlier in our career. But in this song, they’re the object, not the subject—I’m talking about a world in which these things happen, not talking about these things happening.” -Spotify

This post-rock direction carries forth what is nearly another LP in it of itself—two towering tracks that together total nearly 40 minutes, “Infinite Josh” and “Fewer Afraid”. Both tracks pay compliment to the band’s increasing and expanded fidelity and instrumentation, with compositions that go between serene, delicate and gentle, to spaced out and utterly triumphant, a sense of light amid the dark. At their weakest, these longer explorations can proceed with a certain languor before reaching their zenith. But at that apotheosis is the purpose, and the intent of it to begin with. Between the more traditional songwriting and the exploratory spaces, there’s a consciousness of the material and immaterial, concrete while remaining keenly experimental. It feels like it’s going to break, like it’s going to push into the ether, and that catharsis is resolute throughout the album. 

Illusory Walls is an exploration of darkness, adding definition to the creeping and stalking fears that rattle our ribs and cause us to lose sleep. The anxieties of hearts well worn, sometimes from each other, sometimes from the crushing weight of what feels like a dying planet. In it though, there is a solidarity, a hope, a sense of community that we’re all going through together, as we approach new fears, we put aside old ones to see what’s left. Illusory Walls is a stunning effort of lyrical revelation and sonic rawness in equal measure. While it may chronicle an age of despair in meticulous fashion, it speaks volumes about the potential of who we are, and what we can be. link

Album Review: The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – ‘Illusory Walls’