When the trio of dc Talk parted ways all these years ago, they indeed went very separate ways. While TobyMac's solo career as a multi-genre artist has taken flight and Michael Tait's career with his self-titled band and the Newsboys has risen with glory, Kevin Max's chosen path hasn't been quite as accessible or illustrious. With several alternative albums, a Christmas record and a couple EPs to boot, he's kept himself quite busy in a hardly-touched area of Christian music. With a healthy and varied catalog behind him, Max ventures out into the realm of remixes and synth-heavy music with the long-delayed Cotes d'Armor (True Rebels), and the result is quite the mixed bag.
The tracks of Cotes d'Armor can be categorized into three areas: remixes, segue instrumentals, as well as some all-new songs. When it comes to the remixes, all of them come from Max's previous release Crashing Gates EP, which also included "Your Beautiful Mind" from 2006's The Imposter. Though the songs of Crashing Gates were decently executed, they lacked much of a musical atmosphere to speak of, and Cotes d'Armor attempts to reimagine these songs, breathing into them new life. And indeed, the remixes here are for the most part better products than their originals. "Out Of The Wild" and "Baby, I'm Your Man" aren't dramatically different in their remixed form, but they still benefit from the treatment. However, with distorted guitar effects and synths galore, tracks like "Saint of Lonely Hearts," "Traveler" and "Future Love Song" shine in their improved versions. While the tracks of Crashing Gates were ripe for remixing, it feels a bit over-extensive to include a remix of "Your Beautiful Mind" here; while the track itself is a great one, and it's not inherently a negative aspect of this record, it's a little odd to see Max used the song for a third time in his catalog.
The new tracks that Kevin Max brings to the table here are also mostly fine additions for what they are. In keeping with the style of the remixes of Cotes d'Armor, the tracks are heavy on synths and distortion; it's far and away the most different sound Max has constructed. "On Yer Bike!" is a crazy, frenetic opener. With a memorable and insanely catchy guitar riff throughout the verses and an almost-chant-like chorus ("Get on yer bike!"), it's a hard-to-ignore addition to the project. Lyrically, however, it takes a few interesting risks ("As you're smoking marijuana with your thirty diseases"/ "we'll take a train to Transylvania and overnight become Catholic/til we're caught by Interpol and were back at the racetrack") as well as some slightly questionable turns ("politics be damned, we're the children of 80's"). "Eccentric" is the best word to describe the song, and though Max has always been a boundary-breaking lyricist with an "artsy" flair, these lyrics are bound to make some listeners (including this reviewer) scratch their heads. "Walking Through Walls (Just To Get To You)" is the best song of the album; telling the story of Max and the mysterious Christine, it's a mystifying but epic track on Cotes d'Armor that's hard not to like. The other three originals, while a little interesting, are also a little forgettable. "Even When It Hurts" and "We Love Dangerous" are both murky, synth-laden tracks with soaring vocals, however both of seem to contain nothing lyrically that stands out. The brief "Unholy Triad" closes out the album with minimalist programming, but like the previous two mentioned, it's not very noticeable on the tracklisting and fades out without much of a flourish to end the album.
The remaining third of Cotes d'Armor is purely instrumental. "2099," "Magadhi Prakrit (Slow)," "Train To Transylvania," "Abyssmal (More Than This)," and "Death Of CCM (Cybergenic Cyclic Machines)" are all segues to seemingly connect the entire album together. However, they don't do their job nearly as well as they should. While some tracks are longer than others, they carry an "unnecessary" feel where axing them wouldn't have hurt the album in its final product. In addition, the segues aren't seamless transitions like one would expect. For instance, "2099" bridges the gap between "On Yer Bike!" and the remix of "Out Of The Wild." Both original tracks fade in and out from silence, but so does the segue, which gives "2099" a sense of uselessness. For the kind of album that Cotes d'Armor is, there's not much extra that really needs to be done to make the album flow, but with these seemingly superfluous transitions in the mix, it extends the album's length unnecessarily.
What Kevin Max has presented here is going to appeal to different crowds; while casual fans of the dc Talker can pass up Cotes d'Armor with little effort, it'll be the hardcore fans of Max will definitely want to get their hands on this novelty of an album. It's a hit and miss concept; when the tracks are well done, they are very well done, but some tracks don't quite deliver and trimming off more of the album's fat would have made the final product much stronger. But when's it's all said and done, Cotes d'Armor (True Rebels) is an inconsistent, but charismatic album that indeed serves its purpose.- Review date: 8/19/10, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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