Music Reviews
Bible Universe

Everything, Now! Bible Universe

(Self-released) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Bible Universe begins with the end. Denial sounds like the kind of track that rolls with the credits of A Fistful of Dollars or Unforgiven. Set against the iconic image of Clint Eastwood riding into the sunset, mariachi trumpets flare and jangly, spaghetti-western guitars amble on as frontman Jon Rogers sings in Richard-Hell-doing-country-drawl, "Lie down on the operating table / we'll cover you with a bride's white veil / and give you away to radio ghosts." It's an ominous beginning to Everything, Now!'s finest record to date.

Bible Universe is a concept record about St. Backbone, an angry, suicidal kid who jumps off a cliff and slips into a new dimension (via Wormhole 1) called Bible Universe and then slips into yet another dimension (via Wormhole 2). It's a tale about reinvention in the face of trial and the cost of religion - a parable that sheds as much light on Bible Belt America as on the psychological and pathological reasons people have for believing in God.

Everything, Now! has always had a quasi-religious element about it. From the cult-like atmosphere that surrounds both the band and the fans to former band member Justin Clark's decision to quit the band to start his own cult to Rogers' assertion that "heaven is a lot like trailer park," Everything, Now! has never strayed from issues of spirituality and religion.

Bible Universe is a great way to summarize Everything, Now!: mysterious, mythical and mystical with riddles hidden in riddles obscured by riddles. But there's clarity on Bible Universe. Where previous records flirted with an idea because copping out in Beefheart/Waits-inspired weirdness, Bible Universe is a unified record. But it is clear that while it has a specific message, listeners are meant to create their own meaning.

The influences here are different too. While past Everything, Now! records dabbled in country and reggae while sticking to T-Rex and David Bowie glam-punk, Bible Universe abandons the rage that typified Police, Police! and Sunshine of Doom for baroque pop and 60s psychedelic rock.

It's a switch that works, for the most part. Some of these songs have been around for a while - particularly Exile in Bible Universe, Freedom Sex with Bible Woman and Searching for the Invisible Man. Others are new.

While the production on Bible Universe may seem minimal compared to Police, Police!, there are small inflections that help do Rogers' voice and his songs justice - pretty much the purpose of production. Elsewhere, the lack of production or a guiding hand hinders the project. The drumming is less than spectacular. Erick Sherman, Everything, Now!'s drummer, didn't play on this record. It's an absence sorely noted - Sherman is the kind of drummer who can elevate a band and give a song the kind of intensity it needs. That intensity is missing on some songs.

The deft production and conceptual songwriting pays off in dividends.

Call Her 'Auto' uses an echo effect on Rogers' voice, and there's a slight sense of reverb present in the minimalist arrangement - giving the track a Sgt. Pepper's feel.

Towards the middle the record begins to falter a bit. Both Searching for the Invisible Man and The Last Vegetable in Our Verb Salad plod along and could have been cut.

But I'm nit-picking. This is a thematically strong record that justifies its every move.

Perhaps the finest moment of the record is the final song, The Birth of Ugly Magic, with its rousing chorus and heart-melting harmonizing.

While Denial emits a dark, psychologically dense feeling, The Birth Ugly Magic emits a happy, resolute and peaceful vibe. It makes sense. St. Backbone has exited Bible Universe a new man. He's rejected The Church, but his experience has also freed him from the anger he had at the beginning of the record.

Rogers' sings in the final coda: "If the heaviness of your load can get you down / Then let the lightness of your soul carry on." That sentiment is as apt a description of Everything, Now! circa 2007 as any.