Kevin Max: AWOL

For his thirteenth solo project, Max dives deep into the early 80’s, delivering a love letter to British New Wave and post-punk bands from The Cure to The Clash. His chief co-conspirators are producer/ programmer Kieran Kelly and bassist Andy Moore of The Smiths, who keep the sound firmly grounded in the era of shoulder pads, Swatch watches, and leg warmers. Hooks abound: hooks on keys, hooks on guitars, hooks on synths, and above all Max’s warmly powerful voice, imbuing the proceedings with raw passion. Max is one of those rare artists which has one asking friends, “The music is great, but have you noticed the lyrics?” “Melissa” offers a word of encouragement to the loner girl on the fringes of her church youth group. “Glory Boys” is a nostalgic tribute to Max’s youth, with arpeggiatting keyboard and slap bass homaging Duran Duran’s “Rio.” “Half of the Better One” is a sweet, Smiths-style love song to his wife. The impressionistic “Moonracer” could be from Spandau Ballet or Aha! “Brand New Hit” depicts Max as stuck “between two worlds,” trying to live up to (or perhaps live down) his early super-career in DC Talk while forging new work that represents his journey of “shedding my skin” over the last 20 years: “All the people in the past just want it to last. All the people in the future want a brand new hit.” The album title reflects his intent to craft an album that reaches listeners beyond church walls, while still expressing the heart of a man who loves Jesus. “Can you feel all the love? Touch the holes in my side,” he says on the Boy-era-U2-ish “Yeshua.” Put it on, play it often.

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