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Christian pre-grunge

Grace Shaker (Alarma)
L.S.U.

It seems simple enough. Man, balanced on the scales of a sovereign, holy, almighty God, is found wanting. Born in sin, even his righteousness is filthy rags when held in comparison to the Perfect One. Still, because of His love for each one of us, God has mercy. He looks past our fallen nature to find treasures only He knows the value of. That's where grace comes in.

Grace Shaker is Michael Knott's take on one of God's greatest mysteries: Grace. Knott approaches the subject from about as human a perspective as one can get. It's not pretty, certainly not CCM, but in its own ramshackle way, Grace Shaker is one of the most "Christian" projects released this year.

Starting with an acoustic guitar and a couple of pots and pans, "Double" opens the set with the singer seated at a bar, hazy eyes chronicling everything around him. The second verse" finds him in church the next day with his wife and kid, hearing the preacher, "feeling remorse/he's got five kids and a big divorce."

After "Double," L.S.U. kicks in with "Kill Will," dynamic rock in the vein of Screaming Trees. Knott's singing is excellent — Bowie-like, similar to Peter Murphy. He also possesses a fine scream, which he demonstrates on "Freedom" and "Bad Disease."

With sick guitars and slamming drums framing a hideous image of sin ("Put your mind in a cesspool/Of green and brown/ Look at what you've found/When your carcass pleads"), "Bad Disease" sounds about like a song of that title should sound. "Blame" is slower, a piano-sent post card to the edge from Christ Himself.

Of all the tracks on this loose concept album, the centerpiece must be "Grace," breathtaking in both lyric and mood. Cello and conga compliment acoustic strumming as Knott intones, "It falls down on me/It falls down on you/Grace falls free/ The proud feel the need/To work the loom/ Yet grace falls free..." Or, as one writer puts it, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephes. 2:8).

Never as much a band as a concept, Michael Knott has assembled an inspired version of L.S.U. this time to bring the message across. Featuring Andrew Carter on guitars and Jeremy Wood on drums, the band is tight, conjuring up sounds reminiscent of late '80s pre-grunge, Pixies and Jane's Addiction. Grace Shaker goes a long way toward being L.S.U.'s best yet.

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