The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Some Albums Have Intelligent Design

Pat Green, Wave on Wave (Republic), 2003

A very strange thing happens exactly four minutes and forty-six seconds into this album by one of the best young singer/songwriters in the country: he denies evolution. "Now somebody made everything / From the soul inside out to Saturn's rings / How my baby smiles and how Ray Charles sings / Of course we were created." This song, the only one on the record that Pat Green had no hand in writing, is kind of straight-up shocking, because it's all just out there: "Of COURSE we were created" is kinda chuckled, like he's saying "ANYone who knows ANYthing knows that, y'fool." I, a former Catholic altar boy who read a different book of the Bible kneeling beside my bed every night for a year, heard this line and my mouth dropped open. What the holy hell in a wheelbarrow?

This whole album follows the principle of "intelligent design," which as you know is the term that the hard-line fundies are giving to their doctrine that God created everything and then gently guided each step in the world's progression. It's set up like a country album, something that's radio- and concert-friendly; Green's voice is full of rough everyman charm, the arrangements are rockin' enough to pass muster and just country enough to get dirt-cred. (He's Texan, so he gets extra leeway on this score. Texas gets a free pass, always.) The title song was the big single--it seems to be about Green's love for a woman, which sneaks up on him bit by bit when he least expects it...but is that just because he says "she" in that second verse? Because other than that it's a Jesus song straight up: "Am I the one you were sent to save?" and there are angels gently guiding the singer towards this mysterious divine woman and he walks out into water.

Apart from these two songs, and the great "If I Was the Devil" (he'd go mess with folks in Blue Eye, Missouri, pretty evil indeed), the rest of these tunes are pretty much secular...or are they? In the new single, he claims "Hell ain't waitin' for a guy like me." When he meets a girl, they end up in "Eden's Gate," wherever that is. And is the great-cause-I'm-sad tune "Sing Till I Stop Crying" really just a paean to religious music? I start getting paranoid when I'm being sung to by someone who thinks that his friends' song scoffing at evolution is good enough to make a mission statement.

Well, if this really is Christian Music in a country guise, I reckon it's a good thing that it has to be sung by a guy who says "shit" on two different songs and talks about going out to get wasted and looks like a fatter Kiefer Sutherland. There weren't a lot of songs I loved better last year than "Elvis," where the mic gets passed around between Green and Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson and Green's pal Waylon Payne and then, inevitably, Willie Nelson. (A Texas country record without a cameo by Willie Nelson was just not to be done last year, or any year.) "Barricades" is kind of like a Gomez song, because it's about keeping the world away from your heart, and "I'm Tired" is a good ol' kiss-off song. But I'm always like, "Damn, is this some kind of metaphor for Jesus or something?" Because the agenda is clear, and I'm an agenda guy.

I like Pat Green, I think he's a talented guy, I'll follow his career. I just wonder if all his fans know about all the codewords hidden in these songs, or maybe I wonder if they all know and it's just us critics and suits that don't know. Either way, I'm also gonna pick up Green's album Three Days for $7 at Frugal Muse. Evocative title, no?
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