22. Chase the Kangaroo – The Choir

CHASE THE KANGAROO

The Choir

It may have been just as easy to place nearly every album from The Choir in a box, close my eyes and blindly choose which one to review where. No band in Christian music has been able to consistently produce stand out, landmark albums nearly every single time out. It really came down to this one here and Circle Slide. I chose “Chase the Kangaroo” primarily because it came earlier in their storied career and proved to break new ground like few other releases for its time.

It should be noted that the CD release includes the complete 5 song EP called “Shades of Gray,” but they will not be under consideration here.

Following on the heals of the more pop and upbeat “Diamonds and Rain,” “Chase the Kangaroo” was the third full length releases and contained songs that were much darker, more reflective, serious and somber and reflected more depth of songwriting, both musically and lyrically, than anything the band had previously produced.

Lyricist and drummer Steve Hindalong experienced a difficult time in life leading up to the release of the project and it is reflected in the lyrics. These included frustration with an industry in which an artist was unable to sustain his livelihood doing his art, the loss of an unborn child and the state of the world around him. This frustration and sadness is matched in Derri Daugherty’s guitar playing.

One interesting musical highlight from this album is the flow and transition between songs. It as if there are no breaks as one song neatly flows into the next creating more of an air of wholeness and completion to the project rather than simply the latest offering from the band. There is a cohesiveness of content and  completeness of thought that is represented here.

The album starts with “Consider,” driven by “Edge-like” guitar styling and a lyrical focus of the struggles within every man to understand the deeper things that appear to be contradictory upon first glance.

Consider your laughter
Consider My tears
Consider My love
Consider your fear

Consider one small child
Consider your cross
Consider the hope that withers like a flower
Consider My loss
Consider the fire
Consider the night
Consider the truth
Consider the light, my love
Consider your heart

These inner struggles and open and honest questions of assurance and doubt will be on display throughout the entire project, and so, “Consider” is the perfect way to start the album.

“Consider” flows musically right into “Children of Time.” “Children of Time” has some of Hindalong’s most imaginative lyrics as it deals with the problem of evil and its origination.

Columbus sailed across the sea
To trouble our theology
What goes up still comes down
But where is heaven if the world is round?
The Cosmonauts were first in space
To look for God and find no trace
With a killer cloud or reason for rhyme
The devil enlightens the children of time

The children of time

The one interesting aspect of this project is despite the darker themes and more introspective content, the songs, like many of the Psalms embrace a sense of the sovereignty of God and sound, at times, almost like a worship tunes. But perhaps, true worship is discovered amidst the struggles and pain of life, when one is left with only a God that is sovereign and holy. This case is most obvious within the framework of the 7 minute “Clouds.” Masked amidst the swirling guitars and keyboards are some of Daugherty’s best vocals and Hindalong’s finest lyrics.The chorus taken Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel’s picture of God enthroned in the heavens is beautifully portrayed here.

But clouds are round about You
Clouds are round about You
Clouds are round about You
And shadows veil Your eyes

Even hidden within the dark imagery is a nod to the richness of Biblically recognized communion. Not just some formal memorial but one in which the grace of God is extended to His hungry and thirsty Bride.

The Ghost is ever bruised
Who defends me when I fall
The Ghost is ever sure
Who holds tight for precious life
The blood remains as rich
That poor sinners drink like wine
The blood remains as warm
That paints black skies with fire

“Sad Face” follows with some of the most heart breaking imagery ever set to music in the Christian music world. Written at the loss of his unborn child, Hindalong addresses the struggle, pain and yet hope amidst the pain. Even as I listen again as I write this emotions well up. It’s impossible to avoid an emotional reaction to this truthful dichotomy that a “sad face is good for the heart.”

There’s a woman in my kitchen
With a rainbow on her cheek
Well isn’t that a promise?
Still I never felt so weak
There’s a tiny spirit in a world above
Cradled so sweetly in our Father’s love
So you don’t have to cry
No there’s something in my eye

A sad face is good for the heart
Maybe just now I don’t understand
A sad face is good for the heart of a man
A sad face

Hindalong’s expressive thoughts are so perfectly matched to Daugherty’s plaintive and melancholy voice that their combination of talents would not be as explosive or intriguing without the other. And it is in songs like “Sad Face” where one must express the pain and loss of the other that this so obviously shown. It is also here that Daugherty’s guitar work can speak the emotions as clearly as his voice. The long time in the studio perfecting this album shows in the experimentation and glorious results noted here.

“Cain” centers on the loss of life and relationships through betrayal. The song juxtaposes the concepts of fear and love and the results each one delivers.

Wicked words embrace the darkness
For reasons too cruel
They hide in the throats of cowards who wait
In the shadows with knives for fools

Love waved a white flag…

I washed my robe…

Love waved a white flag
Fear raised a gun
What have I done?

I washed my robe…

The “Rifleman” is possibly the most out-of-place song on the entire project, but somehow it fits. The most acoustic and melodic music is married to “spoken word” verses performed by guests of Choir including Gene Eugene and Terry Taylor, sometimes singularly while other times mixed together and overlapping.. The Rifleman was a popular western television show starring Chuck Connors as the ever vigilant protagonist who would always be forced to defend himself or his friends.

Here the image is used to express man’s need for a savior, but of a true savior who comes in peace. But man’s initial reaction to a threat is revenge and anger, but here the band calls for peace. Interestingly as the song fades out there is short snippet of “Render Love,” a song from “Diamonds and Rain” in which Daugherty pleads for peace in the land.

“Look Out (For Your Own)” reminds us to be on constant look out for those who are need. One must honestly question exactly who the “your own” are in this song. It would be too easy to simply see this song as a call of personal responsibility for your immediate family as this would be at odds with Jesus’ own concept as to “who is my neighbor.” Here I believe is where the band is ultimately looking.

Every child is ours to shelter
Hunger is a foe to fight
But look to your left, Father
Mother, look to your right
Don’t let your little ones cross the street alone
Tomorrow’s playground is a danger-zone

“So Far Away” is an achingly provocative song of separation. One would imagine the inspiration for this would come from long road trips and late nights in the studio while having to work a day job. Communication is relegated to notes left on kitchen tables and intimacy seems lost in the struggle to stay afloat.  But here is also the sad possibility of being eternally separated from those we love.

The album closes with the title track, “Kangaroo.” Here Hindalong appears to be lamenting the situation in which he is forced to dig ditches for the “Builder Guy,” a job seemingly endless it is as though he is digging a hole to Australia.

“Chase the Kangaroo” did have a #1 single with “Consider,” but like many truly great albums, it is the whole rather than its individual parts that makes it so timeless and noteworthy. This album more than most as it blends so seamlessly from one song to the next creating a cohesive whole. Anger, doubt, loss and pain is set against hope, truth, justice and the sovereignty of a God in control of even the difficult and painful times. This a true treasure of an album and no one who considers themselves a true fan of the genre could be without it.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Of course I love this album. “Cain” could have been a hit if people were more open-minded, but my comment is tangential. In an arena of the “good guys” there is nobody nicer than Steve Hindalong. Fantastic drummer, imaginative lyricist, but he’s also a man who is not afraid to shake a stranger’s hand. In this day and age, that speaks volumes about character.

    Reply

  2. I considered not even commenting on this one as you’ve pretty much covered everything. You’re right, you’re right, a thousand times right. This album is amazing.

    -Adam

    Reply

  3. Posted by Shawn McLaughlin on February 19, 2010 at 3:19 am

    I was sitting in a tiny Olympia restaurant, at the bar, eating vegan food and drinking wine with Steve, Derri and Terry after a Lost Dogs show that was seen by about 9 people. Steve and I were talking about the Choir’s albums and he said that the band feels that, while Circle Slide is their masterwork in an artistic sense, Chase the Kangaroo is the quintessential Choir release as it broke new ground for the band and continues to be the record that introduced the band to most of their fans.

    Reply

    • Posted by low5point on February 19, 2010 at 5:22 am

      I agree and that is why I chose it. Deciding between some of these titles has been brutal…none more difficult than what will be represented by numbers 20 and 19

      Reply

  4. Posted by Steve on February 20, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Absolutely one of the greatest albums of all time, and my choice for greatest Choir album (and that’s hard to determine, with so many fantastic records). As seems to be the consensus, Cain is an amazing song.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Chris Hauser on February 24, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Great piece Dave! This is definitely in my Top 20 records of all time. They had more successful projects (I think) sales wise but this one was foundational for that (soon to be) later success. I worked radio for this project. I still have a sheet with Steve’s handwritten lyrics to “Clouds.” I took it home and found Bible verses for EVERY line in the song. I was going to PROVE to radio why they should play it – hey it’s all in THE BIBLE! Alas, I was naive and the song got precious little airplay. I think in that one act, I impressed the writer – and probably freaked him out a little – but also made a friend for life. I nearly sweat great drops of blood for this record and this band over 3 years and as many albums. I can’t think of another artist except U2 or Zeppelin that had 3 records in a row that meant THIS much to me.

    Reply

    • Posted by low5point on February 24, 2010 at 3:55 am

      I can now officially die in peace. In the span of two days I have received compliments from Chris Hauser and Brian Quincy Newcomb. Two of my heros growing up in this industry for what they did to make it a better place. Now if Chris Willman would just come by…

      Reply

  6. Posted by Shawn McLaughlin on March 6, 2010 at 5:12 am

    It’s also been cool to read the comments by Dw Dunphy. He is one of my favorite current writers and does fine work at Popdose.com.

    Another fellow who was in the Choir’s “Wide Eyed Wonder” video along with Willman, and has similar credibility to the writers you mention is Tom Willett. Would be cool to hear from him as well.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Darrell on June 27, 2010 at 3:03 am

    I was in a Christian band in college in the late 80s and we covered Sad Face. I remember programming my ART multi-effects unit to get the sound that Derri got….what a great song.

    Reply

  8. I had worked a Choir show at Wheaton College (I was a student) and had gone to attend another one in, I believe it was, Rockford when Dan Michaels came out and asked me if I thought that Sad Face was really right. Was it good for a Christian to have sorrow sometimes? It seems someone had some up and confronted him (a woman I believe it was) with the argument that a Christian should always be happy. How stupid is that? Of COURSE it is, and to deny it is to simply lie to yourself and probably miss out on the comfort that can eventually come. Sometimes my fellow Christians scare me… Love this album, btw…

    Reply

  9. Surprised this the Choir record you chose, but I agree completely. I really like Circle Slide, and Kissers & Killers (or the Speckled Bird incarnation of Kissers and Killers) was incredible, and I still believe Someone to Hold On To from Wide Eyed Wonder was their best song, even though that album was the only inconsistent one in their library.

    Columbus sailed across the sea
    To trouble our theology
    What goes up still comes down
    But where is heaven if the world is round?
    The Cosmonauts were first in space
    To look for God and find no trace
    With a killer cloud or reason for rhyme
    The devil enlightens the children of time

    Such a great verse that not only addresses the root of evil, but also points to the greatness of the creation we marvel out on a daily basis.

    To be honest, I would have chickened out and used Choir Live at C2K as my choice from them, since it covers their career highlights well.

    Reply

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