The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: ApologetiX  
Label: independent
Time: 21 tracks / 74:34 minutes

You might have heard of ApologetiX a year or so ago, when they created a minor stir among internet-frequenting Christians by spamming them all with an announcement of their arrival. I personally received no less than five unsolicited e-mails about the release of their album,  Ticked, and, along with many other recipients, began to feel a little "ticked" myself by the media blitz. Needless to say, they did not win any brownie points.

The band is winning some radio play, though, with their Weird Al Yankovic-style covers of popular rock/alternative mega-hits from the past four or five years. Of course, the names are all changed: "Come Out and Pray" by The Offering, "Naomi Gonna Be With Ruth" by Who'd He Send to Go Fish?, "Letterman" by Paul Jam, "Stupid World" by Carthage, "Preachers" by The Remnant of the Excited Saints of America, and so on (complete track list and original names at end). You get the point. Twenty-one songs in all, packed with very creative lyrical changes that are, unfortunately, as Christianese as anything you have ever heard.

ApologetiX styles itself as "that Christian parody band," which leads one to think humor is their goal and not an attempt at seriously proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. But there is hardly anything funny in the new lyrics; they've just changed the lines to reflect Bible stories and typical evangelical appeals. For example, the chorus in Beck's "Loser" is transformed from "I'm a Loser, baby, so why don't you kill me" to "I want you to save me, so why don't Ya fill me?" It is clear that the mission is not parody, but propaganda--taking something familiar and already accepted by the masses and inserting specific ideas in an attempt to further one's cause. The song "All ApologetiX" (by Ninevahna) proclaims and defends this motive to Christians who might have qualms about such methods:

      What if you don't like the lines the band rewrites?
      What else do you need...our apologies?
      But if our songs get someone to see the Son, is it wrong?
      Is it wrong?

But despite ApologetiX's disclaimer, I found myself wondering: "What kind of God does this album reflect?" The mind-blowing, mysterious Creator of the universe or a boxed-in god whose people lack the ability to reflect his creativity and must use trite cliches and borrowed music?

The band deserves some credit for being sincere, and for those who would still support ApologetiX's efforts (Christian parents and youth pastor-types, pay attention), there is plenty to listen to. The "parodies", although hindered by poor production, are all relatively decent copies of the original music and vocals. They're no Weird Al (who has one of the best bands in the business), but the guys show a solid versatility in playing such a wide range of hits. It's just too bad that they couldn't put such talent to much better use by making original music as good and resonant as the songs they cover, instead of promoting the prevailing idea of Christians having no true artistic ability. Or at least make true parodies, with humor.

Those interested might like to know that since the release of Ticked, they have come out with an album of classic rock parodies as well.

Ticked track list:

1. "Come Out and Pray--The Offering" ("Come Out and Play"--The Offspring)
2. "All ApologetiX--Ninevahna" ("All Apologies"--Nirvana)
3. "Naomi Gonna Be With Ruth--Who'd He Send to Go Fish?" ("Only Wanna Be With You"--Hootie & the Blowfish)
4. "Shepherd's Paradise--Colossio with KJV" ("Gangster's Paradise"--Cooliow/L.V.)
5. "Counting Blessings--Fishswalla" ("Counting Blue Cars"--Dishwalla)
6. "Plump--The Preservists of the United Faith of America" ("Lump"--Presidents of the United States of America)
7. "Letterman--Paul Jam" ("Betterman"--Pearl Jam)
8. "People--The Brutal Sufferers" ("Pepper"--The Butthole Surfers)
9. "Big Deal--Fruit Finders"  ("Big Me"--Foo Fighters)
10. "Little Sins--Burning Bush"  ("Little Things"--Bush)
11. "Stupid World--Carthage"  ("Stupid Girl"--Garbage)
12. "A Lie--Pearl Doorjam on the Pearly Gates"  ("Alive"--Pearl Jam)
13. "Preachers--The Remnant of the Excited Saints of America" ("Peaches"--The Presidents of the United States of America)
14. "Who's There?--Heck"  ("Loser"--Beck)
15. "Heaven Isn't Like That--Corrective Soul"  ("Shine"--Collective Soul)
16. "No Chain--Blind Bartimelon"  ("No Rain"--Blind Melon)
17. "Young As You Are--NIVana"   ("Come As You Are"--Nirvana)
18. "Casket Place--Greek Day"  ("Basket Case"--Green Day)
19. "Lightning Flashes--Live Forever"  ("Lightning Crashes"--Live)
20 "InYerFace Love Song--Staunch Temple Zealots"  ("Interstate Love Song"--Stone Temple Pilots)
21. "You Gotta Go--Alanis More-upset"  ("You Oughta Know"--Alanis Morissette)

By Josh Spencer   (2/10/99)