Review Summary: So first aim for the heart then aim for the head.
Now that's an interesting cover, isn't it? What would an alligator (crocodile?) possibly want with a human fetus? I mean, it could
be a good mother (father?)...that is, until it got hungry. Shame on that reptile! How could any living thing actually be selfish enough to satisfy their hunger by taking the life of an innocent victim? Oh wait, it happens all the time...a quick glance at the Discovery Channel will tell you that. But those are animals; our species are above that, aren't we? Wait a minute...isn't America in the middle of a media obsession with the Casey Anthony trial? In case you live under a rock, I'll fill you in: This woman was charged with first-degree murder of her own daughter, but was later found not guilty, much to the dismay of many people. Whether or not she is actually guilty (most people seem to think she is), we have obviously seen enough people kill within their own family to acknowledge there being a legitimate possibility of Anthony herself doing it as well. Therefore, you could assess that ultimately, humans aren't all that different from animals, at least on a very primal level. With Age of Reptiles
, Showbread explores this comparison between the species. More specifically, the cold-blooded and scaly reptile. This analogy - and many more - await in the follow-up to 2004's No Sir, Nihilism is not Practical
When you open the jewel case of this record, you see your reflection on the disc through the "Raw Rock" design, a music note being cancelled out. If you've looked at any other Showbread albums you'll notice that this design is on all of the discs, each one being a different version of it to fit the theme of its respective album. With Reptiles
you've got a green and scaly theme, which is quite the contrast to No Sir
's solid red and black aesthetic. As you listen to this record you'll find that it's very much the same story with the music. Harsh vocals are extremely rare (they are only used twice on the entire record, briefly in "Pachycephalosaurus" and during the finale of the title track), the synth plays more of a dancy role instead of complimenting chaotic riffs, and the energy from last time around is repackaged and presented in a more controlled, driving force this time around. The final product is honestly very strange. It's like they decided to change their influences from Refused to Weezer (but not as nerdy), The Misfits (but not as punk) and Nine Inch Nails (but not as industrial). It's not surprising that they lost so many fans with this album (they also gained a good amount of new ones). The funny thing is Showbread couldn't care less about this (refer to the Raw Rock logo for the reasons why); it's simply not about the music to them.
What is it about, then? Comparisons of humans to the cold-blooded and merciless reptile are constantly made on this album...what could they be saying? Are we really so bad that we are capable of emotionless killing? Do we have "scales" that make it hard to pry to our innards and expose what's in our hearts? Once again, vocalist and lyricist Josh Dies lets us know his position using unique delivery:
I am made of parts that freeze and ligaments that atrophy
Though they look they'll never see
They don't know something's wrong with me
And just as well, I'll never tell what's underneath the scales
I've worn too thin to honor you, my every effort fails
Bury me with Israel and cover up my tracks
Leave not a trace of what I was, I'm never coming back
And if your mercy falls upon he whose blood is cold
Unearth me with your hands of love and never break your hold
-Opening lines of "Age of Reptiles"
Ahhh, starting to make sense. You see, it's (usually) not simple with Showbread. They're most likely using horror film and literature references or using some weird analogy about throwing up to say something. It's not a conventional style by any means, but it works, and they always make it a point to write music that fits the album's theme. The message we're presented with here is brash and straightforward despite all the crazy ways it's presented, and this iteration of Raw Rock (the band's self-branded genre label) follows suit. Make no mistake, however; aside from the title track, this is not somber music. The band's trademark keytar is firing on all cylinders on Reptiles
, always doing its part to help keep things bouncy. "Oh! Emetophobia!", the record's leading single, ventures pretty darn close to Panic! At the Disco territory, which is pretty shocking considering that most of their previous album would be right at home on The Shape of Punk to Come
. And we can't forget "Your Owls Are Hooting", a song that sounds like it was co-composed by Trent Reznor (Dies has cited Reznor as an influence on his songwriting; this comes out much more on the band's next album Anorexia Nervosa
Let's add this up. You've got comparisons of people to reptiles, analogies about vomiting, blended musical influences topped off with a keytar and an interesting way to present the Gospel of Jesus. You read that right - the Gospel of Jesus. What does the rest of the list have to do with that? Well, Showbread manages to do just that - make their beliefs relevant to everything else by doing what they do. This is certainly remarkable in the Christian music scene, simply because no one else is doing it. Everyone else seems to be stuck with religious endeavors and seemingly uninspired methods of preaching (two things Showbread has nothing to do with). They're just here to do what any other artist does, which is share their feelings on whatever topic they want to in their own unique way. Just to throw an example out there, "George Romero Will Be at Our Wedding" deals with unconditional love ala zombie analogies:
I have heard it said that love endures all things
And now I know that it's true
Stronger than the grave, death can't put it out
Here I am, the walking dead, still next to you
I don’t believe that love can rot away
So first aim for the heart then aim for the head
If true love lasts forever, then love doesn’t die
It just becomes the living dead
There are so many reasons why this record is just cool. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate Naked Lunch
references or zombies. That's the whole point here; that despite differences between living things, we have at least some common ground. And, despite the music on all of Showbread's albums being drastically different from each other, they all carry the same attitude. I, for one, will always remain a loyal fan, because I know the same creative minds are behind each and every album (for the most part; Dies and his brother Patrick, the bassist, are the creative force behind the band whereas everyone else has come and gone). Because it successfully blends all of its elements, this is a unique and special album that deserves a few listens. It will immediately appeal to some because of its leaning toward a commercial sound, but as with any Showbread album, it will take a few spins before its true appeal sneaks out of your speakers and into your heart. They say good things come to those who wait. In this case, I couldn't agree more.