Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Homeless Gospel Choir Gets Young

The Homeless Gospel Choir
The Homeless Gospel Choir truly doesn't fit the classic definition of an organized group of singers, typically one that performs regularly in public. It's inexplicably a choir of one person who will likely never sing his songs between the altar and nave, even if his lyrical tenacity might resonate there.

Derek Zanetti is an amazingly talented lyricist who uses his skills to write social commentary with a folk punk flair that packs a punch for its unadulterated hardline look at the way things are today. His ability to do so carries such impeccable clarity that his label's boast that this is the Woody Guthrie of the post-hope / pre-apocalypse world rings so true that it stings at times.

His sophomore album rips across ten tracks of blistering criticism about almost everything, including himself. Because, if this album is anything, it's also a personal look at the world through the eyes of someone who woke up in their thirties and discovered there wasn't anything out there worth pursuing.

I Used To Be So Young is deeply cynical and brutally honest.

While some people might mistake his path as apathy, Zanetti is anything but as he lays out charges against greed, privilege, and complacency. At the same time, he delivers it all with hard truths and humor, a wit that rings out the societal standards like dirty dish water.

Opening with Armageddon, Zanetti sizzles over his nation's latest infatuation with The End Of Days and does so in such a way that he doesn't take sides. The track expresses as much distaste for the media that feeds the fear as those who eat it up as a call to action.

“Armageddon is in reference to the anxiety, and fear that comes along with always thinking the world is going to end,” adds Zanetti. “These 'doomsday preppers' spend more time worrying about death, and not enough time living. And I think that is both funny and sad.”

He expresses the same feelings about Black Friday, a song about the country's most grotesque displays of consumerism. He was inspired by a real life story about a throng of holiday sales ads that were interrupted by a woman who was trampled to death in a department store. Immediately following the story, the bombardment of commercials resumed until the next segment.

The point was further driven home by a video made up of news footage that accompanies the song. It dances eloquently between beauty and barbarism, want and waste. A similar theme is struck in Holiday Song (originally written three years ago or so), which dares people to see both sides of consumerism, such as a diamond signifying sometimes considerably different things between the person who purchases it and the person who digs it up.

Capitalismo is especially poignant too. It lays out the case that casting off the chains of materialism might be a noble effort in that we generally go out the way we come in — naked, afraid, and crying. But not everything in his arsenal is necessarily whimsically heavy. Some of it is just whimsy.

Musical Preference is one such number when Zanetti takes time out to explore how we all connect to music. He elevates some musicians while disparaging others, usually drawing the line between those who are popular and underrated. It's doubtful that he counts himself among the latter camp, however. The vibrant Some People takes at least one or two jabs at himself as a one-man band.

There are plenty of other tracks that are worthwhile. Untitled, Slow Down The Time, and Don't Give Up reveal the album is as sonically important as it is for some ideologies. Zanetti is a solid songwriter even when he drifts away from sarcasm.

I Used To Be So Young by The Homeless Gospel Choir Rips 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While it is difficult to agree with every observation jotted down by Zanetti because he occasionally mistakes his selectiveness as objectivism, the album still soars as a thought provoking and challenging commentary that touches on truth. He then weaves it all together into such a convincing but unpretentious manner that it's impossible not to appreciate every inch of it.

I Used to Be So Young by The Homeless Gospel Choir is available on Amazon. You can also download the album on iTunes. For upcoming shows and appearances, follow him on Facebook.
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