This New Zealander's melodies are like his lyrics - clever without drawing attention to their own cleverness, rooted in a Lennon/McCartney-like sense of pop history while not seeming over-deferential, and light with a hint that something darker and heavier might be this way coming. Take, for example, "The Bisexual." In it, a heterosexual man finds himself the object of homosexual seduction and is surprised by his lack of revulsion. It does not, however, suggest for a second that to succumb would mean anything less than "disaster."
The problem with this latest installment in the World's Best Reggae Band's worship series is simple: It's too long. How long is too long? Well, traditionally speaking, anything over 45 minutes is pushing it, and this album clocks in near 80. But, more to the point, it's not until Track Eight, "Faithful One," that the project stops sounding like "Hooked on Worship" for Bob Marley fans and starts sounding like a worthwhile genre of its own. Nine more songs follow. "To Obey" and "Garden" are pretty good too.
Believe it or not, there's a type of person who, particularly after a long day, wants nothing so much as to kick back and to subject his eardrums to a full-volume, heavy-metal massage. And, if that person happens to be a believer, the less Satanic that heavy metal the better. Metal doesn't get much less Satanic than Tourniquet, who, 22 years after its debut, continues to combine overt Christianity, animal-rights advocacy, and other obsessions atop in-your-face ferocity better than anyone else.
Whatever else the bad boy of Christian rock (well, he has David Bazan for competition) might mean by calling this album CTRL, this much is certain: By leading with an affirmation of the resurrection of the dead, he imposes limitations on his more controversial tendencies. The word "control" itself appears in two songs. Other motifs include sleep, insomnia, and the flesh's inherently sacramental nature. Maybe that Webb and his ominous choir deliver these meditations with an appropriately reverential restraint is, in a way, explanation, and aesthetic triumph, enough.
Instrumental party music of the 1960s remains the good, clean fun it always was, no matter how many adults perceived it to be otherwise at the time. But it's hard to recreate or improve it without seeming nostalgic. Congratulations, therefore, to those masked surf-rockers Los Straitjackets and those neckerchief-wearing Stax Records devotees the Satin Chaps for providing hope that in the Land of 1000 Dances there may still be a few acres of arable real estate left.
On Los Straitjacket's Jet Set (Yep Roc) and the Satin Chaps' self-released Might I Suggest the Satin Chaps, it's hard to tell whether the defining characteristic is enthusiasm or affection, as dollops of both come through. And while guessing which '60s act Los Straitjackets are echoing here or the Satin Chaps are echoing there might make for a good game of beach-blanket bingo, there are no prerequisites for vicariously enjoying the good time that was obviously had by both.