Click to hear: “Beyond The Grave”
Portland Gospel-folk star Dan Knudsen recently released another delightfully oddball batch of outsider music. Beyond the Grave is Knudsen’s sixth “studio” album and eleventh release overall (he’s also got two “greatest hits” collections, a live album, a tribute album and an EP of holiday-themed songs that should be back at Bull Moose and Strange Maine in time for Thanksgiving).
Grave is a follow-up of sorts to 2008’s Outer Space, in that both contain a lot of sci-fi- and horror-themed material. But as if it were necessary to remind his fans he’s not some sort of fiend, Knudsen kicks the album off with a straightforward declaration of faith, “For The Church And The World.”
After that, anything goes.
The title track, a gentle song about monsters and mayhem, contains what, for the choir-boy clean Knudsen, is a genuinely shocking line: “Beyond the grave, necrophiles dig up fresh corpses and bang them often.” (Dan, I know you needed something to rhyme with “coffin,” but c’mon!)
“Mass of Slime” tells the harrowing tale of a murderous blob of goo from outer space, using the first-person (or first-blob) perspective. “I’m made of protoplasm, and I’m predacious / My appetite for flesh and blood is so voracious!” Dan told me “Slime” is also about “the creeping horrors of terrorism, capitalism and corporate greed,” but that subtext is buried very deep, indeed.
Grave is probably Knudsen’s most rockin’ release yet. He handles all the instruments, to varying degrees of proficiency — acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums — but as usual, the lyrics and singing are pure gold.
As you listen to the sci-fi themed “Launch My Heart,” it begins to dawn on you that this song kinda sounds like Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.” Then, during the breakdown toward the end, Knudsen says, “When I first became a singer everything was alright / In fact, it was a gas / Years gone by, I’d say I’ve whupped E.T.s’ ass,” and you realize two things: 1. This is a blatant knock-off of that song, and 2. Crüe would still never win a copyright infringement suit, not with other lines like, “In this galaxy I’ve seen things that are strange / like vegetable creatures, carrots with brains.” (Actually, he might be referring to Crüe there…)
“Red Blood Cells” is inspired by the sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, and yes, it’s as fun as that sounds. The subject of “Freewheels Are Turning” shifts from safe driving to NASCAR racing to a futuristic battle against “cybernetic and robotic beings.” Also fun as hell.
Do yourself, and Dan, a favor and pick this one up. Your soul will thank you later.
— Chris Busby