All Star United - 2000 Smash Hits

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ARTIST: All Star Uinted
ALBUM: Smash Hits
LABEL: Essential Records
SERIAL: 83061-0667-2
YEAR: 2000

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Ian Eskelin - vocals, guitars * Dave Clo - guitars * Adrian Walther - bass * Christian Crowe - drums * Pat McCallum - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Smash Hit * 02 Bright Red Carpet * 03 Saviour Of My Universe * 04 Beautiful Thing * 05 Tenderness * 06 Welcome To Our Big Rock Show * 07 Superstar * 08 Theme From Summer * 09 Thank You, Goodnight * 10 Popular Americans * 11 If We Were Lovers * 12 Hurricane Baby * 13 Hang On * 14 Baby Come Back * 15 Saviour Of My Universe (Acoustic Mix)

Background

I have to confess a certain ignorance when it comes to Christian rock, but with 'Smash Hits', Nashville based power poppers All Star United certainly do their best to convert these ears.

Oddly enough, this, the band's third album is a bittersweet milestone for them - despite Grammy nominations and hit singles, Essential Records has decided to drop All Star United - so 'Smash Hits' is a compilation of the best tunes from the two studio albums with three new songs tagged on for good measure.

All Star United not only pay homage to their faith on 'Smash Hits' but also display their own musical tributes to a host of apparent influences. They share common ground with Blur and Supergrass as well as displaying the odd touch of punk-rock, Beach Boys pop and Goo Goo Dolls balladry. It's an intriguing mix and one which works well right from the start.

The Songs

'Smash Hit' was one of ASU's many # 1's on Christian radio and it's not hard to see why. Like many other songs here, it's a likeable fusion of rasping guitars, strong melody and witty, self depreciating lyrics.

Similarly, 'Bright Red Carpet' and the insanely catchy 'Beautiful Thing' bounce along in the same vein, and while the band do make you aware of the religious message underpinning their songs, they do it quite modestly. In fact, it's quite refreshing to hear Eskelin's lyrics taking a barbed stab at the warped ideals of modern society while succinctly advocating a better way.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on 'Smash Hits' stand out track - 'Superstar'. Following the pop-punk of 'Welcome To Our Big Rock Show', the song mocks society's obsession with celebrity amid an irresistible hookline and verse - 'The Jacksons, Osmonds/They were swallowed up by the cult that caused them/Abba, Poison/Oh how the mighty, the mighty have fallen' - it's hard not to like lyrics and tunes as good as this.

Judging by the musically diverse offerings from their Neill King (Green Day) produced second album, 'International Anthems For The Human Race', ASU aren't afraid to stand still. Horns are used to neat effect in the incisive 'Popular Americans', 'If We Were Lovers' is wrapped around a Bossanova jazz groove, and the opening of 'Hurricane Baby' is so laid back you can almost picture Ian Eskelin in carpet slippers and smoking jacket.

But all this is not without a bit of poignancy - 'Thank You, Goodnight' displays some sensitive lyrics and guitar work by Dave Clo, while the acoustic remix of delicate ballad 'Saviour Of My Universe' shows that Ian Eskelin isn't just a dead ringer for Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik, but he can write songs like him too.

The other two new self-produced songs, 'Baby Come Back' and 'Hang On' bode well for future ASU albums, being more akin to the satisfying, singalong pop/rock of the first half of the CD rather than the interesting experimentation of the majority of the second.

In Summary

All in all, this is a great introduction to a band who have enjoyed a fair bit of success in Christian circles without really translating it to the mainstream. As 'a Christian rock band as opposed to Christians in a band', maybe that's what the guys are happy with.

However, whether you are a Christian music devotee or just a plain fan of quality pop/rock, one thing is certain - you should be listening to 'Smash Hits'.. religiously.


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