The Christ You Want To Boogie With
Joseph Arthur is a Grammy nominated, critically-acclaimed performer. After releasing nine LPs on an array of different labels from the late ’90s to the present (including Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records and Arthur’s own Lonely Astronaut Records), he’s taken a different route with The Ballad of Boogie Christ. This time around, the Akron, Ohio native launched a PledgeMusic campaign, using rare vinyls, guitars and even artwork as incentives to fund production and touring costs. Clearly, his fanbase responded with nothing but love—because The Ballad of Boogie Christ is a full-scale production of storytelling and exciting instrumentation that old fans will love and newcomers should enjoy just as much.
Just like it sounds, Boogie Christ is indeed a ballad, but it’s not exactly a straight narrative. Boogie Christ, a modern-day rockstar version of Jesus Christ, remains at the heart of the story, but the songs don’t exactly follow a structured plot. Instead, each track represents a reflection, a feeling or simply a new perspective on some aspect of life to which all listeners can relate. And each track has a soul of its own, its own theme or spirit or rhythm, keeping the record fresh and surprising from beginning to end. Opening track “Currency of Love” is a grand, symphonic lament that features Arthur’s clear, rough, Springsteen-ish voice. Packed with a choir, a horn section and an organ, this track breaks the album open, rocking its way forward.
The title track, as any title track should be, is a stand-out. A rocking, tongue-in-cheek response to Joan Osborne’s “One Of Us,” “The Ballad of Boogie Christ” describes the main character as if he were your cool neighbor: “Christ would wear cowboy boots / Christ would have sex / Christ would eat pizza / And cut black jack decks.” This song is a rollicking, rolling tune sure to be stuck in your head for days. Plus, it serves as a thesis statement for the record, a rock that cements the project as a story of growth and personal reflection.
It may be 2013, but Joseph Arthur is sure to retain plenty of that early-2000s alt-rock feel that he perfected on previous records. On “It’s OK to Be Young/Gone,” he and his chorus build to a vocal explosion over a groovy drumline and electric guitar. There are several songs, like this one and “Currency of Love,” that are enormous productions worthy of bad Broadway adaptations. But there are also some tracks that are stripped-down, featuring only Arthur’s voice, a guitar and possibly a soft drum or piano, which allow for the focus to shift from the sonic performance to the lyrics. After thirteen years in the music bizz, Joseph Arthur clearly knows the equation for entertaining, poignant songs, and doesn’t show any signs of stopping.