Wayne Everett is not a sight for sore eyes. Although perfectly kempt, groomed and probably attractive in a “quiet guy that everyone wants to be friends with cause he doesn’t try to be cool, until you actually become friends and realize he just ISN’T cool” sort of way, his on stage demeanor and persona is awkward to say the least. Never having been to an actual Lassie Foundation show, I suppose its possible that YouTube has lost something in translation and distorted the context of Everett, a truly seminal Christian indie rock frontman. Equal parts ambitious introvert and semi-pro karaoke star, his moves and maneuvers fall somewhere between high school talent show tryouts and so lame its cool. It’s either overwrought with anxious self-awareness, or something he’s completely oblivious to. Either way, none of it matters in the least once the music begins.
Pacifico, the Foundation’s 1999 debut full length was described by members of the press as “Pet Sounds reinterpreted by My Bloody Valentine” and, as mind-numblingly over-the-moon a picture as that may paint, it really only means that they (along with Starflyer 59, Silversun Pickups, and to a lesser extent Team Sleep, Scarling, and Autolux) have helped define the oh-so-mythical California shoegaze sound. Moreover its a cross-comparison noting their affinity for melody over noise, a progression we don’t see come entirely of age until 2004’s Face Your Fun.
The need to review a record like this four years after its release is part Lassie evangelism and part missing the boat. Not only did Patrol not exist back then, but all I knew about shoegazing was what I witnessed second hand through my brother’s sometimes fascination; that it was boring, and that although My Bloody Valentine may have pioneered it, Starflyer and the Lassie Foundation owned the show this side of the pond.
So now that we’ve established this history, forget it entirely. Face Your Fun is pop. In a timeless throwback sort of way. In a New Order, Flock Of Seagulls, Guided By Voices, New Pornographers sort of way. It finds the simplest ways of saying the most beautiful things. The most honest ways of making the past sound like the present. Curveball turns of structure disguised as pop song-writing formula, outros twice as long as they should be (only found in the end to be the perfect length), an almost-too-long instrumental sequence falling into a nearly-too-late chorus, tying itself together and fading into the dark. First times feel like subtle memories and simple gestures take heart. Little moment after little moment signal the birth pangs of Christian indie pop, holding back and pushing forward.
Perfectly displayed in songs like “Money Money,” the band carry a humble swagger and more-modest-than-thou attitude, laced with honesty and biting conviction “I saw that movie star with a big stack of money/The big bank’s gonna make him feel so strong/And so fresh with the honeys/He got the world and he the power/He got the strength to make you seem so small/Just because of the money.” While with the turn of a cheek, as in “Sunset” they show off heartfelt sentiments and nostalgic worries like “The sunset is too fast/I’m feeling like this is gonna be my last/Sunset, the night is coming.”
“What the Beat is For” analyzes rhythms and equating personalities while it unapologetically (and more believably than any pop-punk band) states “She was standing in jeans and tank top/I was feeling like a loaded gun/Pursed lips, swinging hips into my direction/Hey hey hey/She said she plays the drums/2 & 4 I’ll teach you more/And show you what the beat is for” just in time to be sideswiped by a heaven sent bridge of “SHAKE, SHAKE” gang vocals, Everett’s velvety reply,
and like clockwork a final chorus of sweet melody payoff.
“Eye Of The Pirate” the record’s best track (along with “Money Money”) plays out like a pirate love song. Swooning from the verse, “We can count the stars/And we can plunder the galleons/My heart is on the outside looking in/I’ve been searching with my one eye missing” to the double-time, melody medal-winning chorus “Oh yeah, walking the plank tonight,” into a Sheryl Crow style sliding guitar instrumental jam, a synth solo, and finally some choruses and an outro heavy enough to
sink a ship.
During their decade or so life span they’ve gained the pagan respect of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Popular, The Real World, and MTV Road Rules, while opening for Phantom Planet, At the Drive-In, Mates of State, Creeper Lagoon, Imperial Teen, and more recently The Walkmen and The New Pornographers. Most notably, in May 2007 Jeff Schroeder became the touring guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, although he will be featured on the new Lassie album later this year.
Face Your Fun deserves all the light of day and all the parts of a rabid following that being in an indie band can bring. Unfortunately, while a lack of commercial success is a given (and in many cases a badge of honor), the Christian indie game all too often lacks the critical praise and upper-class appreciation befitting of the regular indie scene. Thus we see artists of faith forced to gain credibility and momentum secular side (Sufjan, David Bazan, Denison Witmer, Page France, Soul-Junk, Danielson, Anathallo) after which, we gladly support and pretend we loved all along. It seems that Christian listeners either dive much too far and far too deep into the mainstream CCM crapstorm, or abandon the subculture altogether, leaving no audience for the brilliant indie Christian band, save for the wandering, open-minded non-Christian. No, he’s not a sight for trendy eyes. But fortunately, Wayne Everett is the sound of curative pop therapy for any kind of sore ear.
Jordan Kurtz is a Patrol music editor.
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