38. Kiss of Life – Lifesavers

KISS OF LIFE

Lifesavers

This has been the toughest choice thus far!

Trying encapsulate Mike Knott’s amazing career is just impossible, unfair and critical suicide. Lifesavors? Lifesavers? Mike Knott. Michael Knott. Lifesavers Underground? LSU? Idle Lovell? Mr. Knott has had more incarnations than Terry Scott Taylor and each of them are valid contributions to the Christian Music market.

For this blog in ultimately came down to Us Kids, Shaded Pain, Dream Life and this wonderful work, Kiss of Life. Us Kids was really a Mark Kirshack record. Dreamlife was too scattered and suffered from production issues. So it came down to Shaded Pain and Kiss of Life. I went with my pop music bias and went with Kiss of Life. But KOL also was the first time when Mike Knott and the boys were introduced to the major Christian Music industry. Good distribution and great radio support. There were several rock radio hits on this project and they found their way to the airwaves.

Let’s start this by stating the obvious. Mike Knott is a genius. He knows how to craft a fine pop tune. He knows a hook when he hears one. He is also one of the best alternative/punk/pop vocalist in the history of Christian music. But he can also be edgy, controversial and impulsive. These are all good things when creating great music. Now I know it’s sacrilege to chose this album as Mike Knott has more than once noted he wished it never existed! I have never bothered to ask why, but I might assume the reasons would the more blatant evangelical content and the pop flavor of the album which stands out against the rest of Knott’s catalog. It’s a shame since it also contains some of Knott’s most memorable offerings.

He may not be happy that this album exist but I sure am! I know there are a ton of the “cool” fans that join Mike in their dislike of this project, but there is amazing pop tracks here that made the “underground” in Christian music much more available to the general youth kid. In that way this project is downright ground breaking!

Kiss of Life kicks off with “She’s On Fire” which sounds like something lifted off the soundtrack to the average John Hughes film. Groovy and memorable in the vein of The Psychedelic Furs it gets the album off to a great start with the story of a “girl” that has found that one true love, a love greater than one finds exclusively on earth.

The kiss of death never touches her lips
The kiss of life only brightens her light
Sailing her past the sinking ships
Steering her unto her one true desire

“I Pray You Pray” could have been an anthem for Christian High School kids going through early romances and never knowing what is right in God’s eyes. Those struggles are universal and what looks from the outset to be an easy answer truly isn’t when examined deeper. The pitfalls of relationships for Christians has been a constant struggle but few artist have ever dared to broach the subject.

A personal favorite is “I Can’t Wait.” Musically in the vein of Knott’s Idle Lovell project, which is why it also appears on that project, this melancholy and longing refrain is haunting and beautiful. It is hard to tell whether this is written primarily to a love on lost or from the heart of one who longs to be with Christ, but it appears both themes are present.

The album fluctuates between mid-tempo ballads and straight ahead rockers. What is distinctly missing from this project is the punk rock that dominated the first two projects and the darker, more aggressive guitars of later projects. This is filled with much more of a pop sensibility. Closer to the aforementioned Psychedelic Furs as well as bands like The Cure and The Waterboys, there is an immediate likability to the project, but it stands out because of just how well it has stood up against fashions, fads and time.

One unique stand out on the project is the ballad “Dreamin’.” I was working at a local radio station in Southern California and we would occasionally branch out beyond the normal Christian Adult Contemporary with artists like Steve Taylor, The 77’s and Charlie Peacock. I pestered the Program Director, literally begging him to give the song a listen. He was familiar with the band and of their live concert reputation, so I didn’t make much progress. Finally to get me off his back he let me play the first 30 seconds of the song for him. It was added to the station rotation that afternoon!

Dreamin’ is a breezy and warm tune with a killer sax solo and unforgettable chorus. It made some inroads into the more pop and adult contemporary radio formats that would never even touched the Lifesavers previously. Knott here expresses the innate desire amongst believers to be with the one who truly loves them at all times.

Carry me home away, away
Try to realize I can’t reason
Waiting for the day and your season
I can see it now in a feeling
Carry us up away

Dreamin’ dreamin’ dreamin’
I am always dreamin’ of you
To catch a kiss of life

Another relationship song worth noting is “Love Boy Love Girl.” Another song that should have made it on to a movie soundtrack, Love Boy Love Girl is about sa well crafted a pop song as anything Knott has ever written. But it also addresses sexual purity and cultures rejection of universal truths and norms.

There is a very faithful cover of The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which has to be the most often covered song by Christian artists in history. The heaviest and darkest songs follows with “We Live For The Son” and “Free Her.” These songs would hint at what would soon follow with the creation of LSU.

The album concludes with the worshipful “See Me Fall.” Long before the invent of the modern worship music phenomenon and bands like Sonicflood and Delirious, bands like the Lifesavers, Undercover and the Altar Boys would write worshipful melodies within their artistic framework. In fact, many of these bands would add a “worship set” to their concerts long before it became the norm.That is the case here.

Holding hands with my maker
Inside of my heart to make it better
And to heal me from the years of pain
Inside of my life to free me
Inside of my heart to make it better
And to heal me from all those years of pain

See me fall down
See me fall down and worship him
Christ the King of all

This song also has one the greatest sax solos in CCM history.

As stated above I understand there are many that simply do not like this album because it was too evangelical, not edgy enough or for a host of other reasons. That is to miss the point of why this album was so important in the history of Christian music and why, as an album, it stands alone just fine.

Advertisements

6 responses to this post.

  1. I say this was one of their best album. this part of the 80’s music was the best. most anything that came out was great. i love site and mabe some day you’ll be able to make a book of it. keep up the great work , johnny

    Reply

  2. There were a couple songs on Kiss Of Life that failed to grab me, but I’d say the majority was a strong indicator of what was yet to come, specifically “Free Her” which could have been on Shaded Pain. I’m more inclined to believe Shaded Pain was better because it felt more consistent. Add to that, it was scary. When Knott howls the lyrics to “Plague Of Flies” he’s not musing on the severe insect infestation, he’s fearing for his life; probably a more sensible reaction to being beset by the wrath of God…

    I lost touch with Knott’s work around the time of Aunt Betty’s, turned off by the self-inflicted controversy most of that recording typifies. Still, I wish his newer material was a little easier to locate, as I’d certainly give it another try.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Alex on February 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    I’ve heard Knott doesn’t care for this album much either but I think it’s great, even if it tends to be a little “cheesy”. I can’t really get into any of his LSU/LS Underground material that much but this one has stood up remarkably well considering it came out in 1986. I think aside from the Cush album and his solo material, this is my favourite record of his.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Shawn McLaughlin on February 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    This was my introduction to Knott and it was about the only thing of it’s kind in the Christian music landscape at that juncture, with its “new romantic” leanings. It definitely captured a snapshot of an era but he really began to mature as an artist with Shaded Pain. That said, “Grace Shaker” is my favorite Knott related project.

    Reply

  5. Posted by paul on October 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    If we are talking about Mike Knott/Lifesavers my favorites are still “The grape prophet” and “Screaming brittle siren” with apocalypse lips being my all time favorite Mike Knott song. Another “Christian” artist too talented for the CCM pool.

    Reply

  6. ‘Us Kids’ is not only the best Lifesavors/Lifesavers/LSU record, it is one of the best christian albums ever. I still love it (and I’m an atheist)!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: