Andy McCarroll & Moral Support
I have been waiting to discuss this album! There are few releases I love to listen more than this great punk rock release from Andy McCarroll & Moral Support. After losing the LP of this great record in a move it was nearly 15 years in between listens. Then a few years ago I heard that it made its way on to CD and I grabbed on immediately. I would assume not a month goes by that don’t listen all the way through.
Andy McCarroll did record two folk/rock albums in the UK in the mid-1970’s. The sound is quite a bit more subdued than on this Clash influenced release. But both of those early releases are worthy to be tracked down. I am considering a similar blog that counts down “The Top 50 Christian Albums You Should Own…But Probably Don’t.” This would be a Top 5 release easy, and a serious contender for number one.
I remember walking through a small Christian Bookstore in Orange County, CA as a Junior in High School. This little store had a really cool guy working there that would “sneak” in some underground or controversial albums. One day I had dropped by and he ran to meet me outside when he saw me coming. In his hand was the brightest record LP cover ever. I saw it from a distance! He just said “trust me!”
I drove home as quickly as possible and for the next several hours I listened to Zionic Bonds over and over again. then i turned the record over to listen to Side B! I could not escape just how “new” and current it sounded. At the time there was Resurrection Band, Daniel Amos had released Horrendous Disc and that was about it. This was before undercover, The Lifesavers and The Altar Boys broke through.
The album kicks off with a whining guitar fading in before the drums, bass and guitar assault is launched. The bass and drums drive the song “Sin” with a ferocity that was unheard of at the time. McCarroll’s vocals – an acquired taste admittedly – were unique, heavily accented and raw. The lyrics matched perfectly.
The results of rebellion causin’ societal ills / It pounds and beats to death like a pneumatic drill / You take it very lightly and excuse it at will / Don’t realize it’s cancer, don’t realize…Sin Kills
After McCarroll points the finger at societies acceptance of sin he turns the accusing finger back on himself.
It affects my body and corrupts my brain
It effects like poison running through my veins
It penetrates all, all it touches it stains
It’s like living your, living you life…in a sewage drain
I wanna hate it (hate it) with all of me!
On “How the Kids are Feelin'” a high speed rocker with a double speed lyrical rhyme scheme bemoans the struggle of the inner city kid that falls into the wrong crowd.
Backstreet bad boys, talk rough, make noise, to be heard to be seen
Be noticed, do anything, get drunk, get in a fight, cigarette, wanna light
Security in the gang, safety first, everytime
How the kids are feeling…
McCarroll levels complaints against the schools that push kids through with no moral component and ask..
Please miss, is this a joke, am I really just another brick in the…
But McCarroll does not leave the with the same hopeless his secular counterparts did at the time.
This is how it is
How the kids are feelin’
How they need Jesus
” To Know You” addresses the need how the need to know Jesus outweighs every other pursuit in life. This theme is set to a world beat/ska driven rhythm and groove.
I go and enlist at the old age four
I go there to study, that’s what I’m there for
There’s so much to learn that my head could not store
But I’d squeeze some in in order to know you more
Once again the godless school system is the victim of McCarroll’s complaints…
But the one thing most important, they forget to do
Is to tell me that I can know about You…to know You
The teacher says, untidy work, you should be ashamed
Why so much stress on lesser gains, if I don’t know You
Everything is in vein….
McCarroll finishes the song by declaring what is actually the most important.
While in those days of schooling
One thing’s my aim
To fill my mind with those things
That will last and remain…to know You
The poppiest single on the project follows with “Slippin’ and Slidin'” Here agin the call is to the adults to be guides to the young ones. He bemoans that lack of passing down clear and Biblical morals to the next generation. Even those who profess a morality without the Biblical foundation receive the brunt of the song. McCarroll attacks the humanistic philosophy that cannot account for the morality they wish to thrust upon others.
They don’t know on what foundation their building…I wish they’d understand…
The next is clearly the most memorable. It is stark, borderline eerie vocally. But on “I Am Human” the topic of abortion is front and center and the musical composition matches the poignant and unflinching lyrics. Where Phil Keaggy sweetly asked “Who will speak up for the little one…” McCarroll directs his venom against the hypocrisy of the physicians as he charges with a near monotone, almost computer or robot sounding vocals…
Why do you murder babies
Abort them and get paid
Just like an executioner
With mask upon your face
Everyday human life gets cheaper
You act and you destroy
You play with my world
As if it was a toy
I am special, I am human
Then he sends a charge against society in general and the humanistic, postmodern philosophy that sees to true value to human life.
If nothing is forbidden
Anything is possible
It opens doors for Hitlers
Makes man expendable
I am special…I am human
We are special…we are human
Side two opens up with a great instrumental that at first may seem a little out of place on such an aggressive record. But here the band gets to really show their chops. “Cyan City” is a wonderful melody that is reminiscent of the kind of instrumental work from After the Fire.
“King Man” bring the record back to The clash British punk styling. Lyrically the song looks at the ultimate fool as the one who believes there is no God and the vain philosophies and ideologies that derive from such a presupposition.
King man and his family
Evolved to himself from a chimpanzee
A royal line, shows stately
No noble blood, just an animal king
Hard times…when you don’t realize you’re not the most powerful alive
“Livin’ a Lie” is another in the more pop vein on the project. This time the lyrics are directed toward those in the Church that are not truly born again. those that are living a lie and called to repent. This is especially true for those who have a mental ascent toward the Gospel with no impact on the heart. These are the ones Paul warns Timothy about in 2nd Timothy 2.
“In Control” follows with another ska/reggae tune, but this time much slower. The concept of the sovereignty is the focus here. Mccarroll examines not just the thought that God is control of the kings and nations but in your next door neighbor as well. Set against the early 80’s fear of nuclear war between the US and USSR, McCarroll still has his faith resting on the One who is in control.
Do you believe God is in control?
Yeah, do you believe God is in control?
Of the USA and USSR
And Bobby and Jean who live next door?
God is in control…God is in control
The song finishes with the constant refrain of God is in control while news reports of impending doom and destruction throughout the world are placed over the vocals.
“20th Century” finishes off the album with a 50’s ballad melody set against a staccato guitar work and McCarroll’s nasally vocals.
He’s more than a shoulder to cry
He’s more than a crutch to keep yourself up
he’s more than a prop when the going’s rough
When all around starts to erupt
He’s more than a help to get your head straight
Not psychological phenomena
He’s more than an aspirin for the weak in mind
Or a three times daily kind of pick me up
There is God – Though I cannot see
There is a God – A hope for you and me
There is a God – The final reality
Of the 20th century
Lyrically straight forward, musically aggressive, topically current. I recall an interview with Bono of U2 in which he referenced the music of Andy McCarroll. He also mentioned that Moral Support was unique in that the band contained both Protestants and Catholics, which was pretty much unheard of at the time. The band did score a hit in Ireland but. unfortunately they were short-lived and this was the only release. But what a release it was!