The Phantom Tollbooth

Propska One
Artist: Various
Label: Essential Records
Time: 17 tracks/61:01 minutes

Not to be outdone by ForeFrontís Seltzer, Essential has put together a compilation of some hot Christian acts. Donít ask what Propska means. Essential just picked it because it sounded cool--any album title with ďskaĒ as a suffix does right now. Essential hopes you will like these bands enough to buy more of the music. Why they couldnít just release a two dollar sampler, I donít know, but at least they offer up some big names. While Seltzer has some big names like The Newsboys, Geoff Moore, and Audio Adrenaline, Propska One answers with hits from Jars of Clay, Third Day, and Plumb.

This album does point to the growing diversity in Christian music. A ska version of a Keith Green song, a lounge version of an MxPx song; there are a lot of genres represented here. Any compilation in 1998 wouldnít be complete without ska (Five Iron Frenzy, Insyderz, Dingees), plus there is hip hop (Gotee Brothers), power pop (Plankeye, Silage), and the more middle of the road stuff (Jars, Plumb). If you were to put together a mix tape for youth group or a friend who wanted a good introduction to Christian music, there are plenty of songs here that you would include like Jars of Clayís "Fade to Grey," Third Dayís "You Make Me Mad," and Plumbís "Endure." The only music trend absent, to my surprise, is swing. All summer I have been hearing the buzz about bands like The Wís, but they are not represented here. Nonetheless, this album is a good barometer for the state of Christian music in the late Ď90ís. Another heartwarming note is the lack of mainstream sound-alikes. Two years ago, an album like this would certainly have featured Christian music's answer to grunge, a trend that was already dying in the general market then. Fortunately, Propska One avoids flavor-of-the-month mentality. There are no Chumbawamba or Matchbox 20 rip-offs here.

With such popular bands represented, undoubtedly some people will already own a lot of this music. For those people, myself included, who might not see a reason to buy this album, Essential wisely includes some stuff you wonít find elsewhere: a live Caedmonís Call song, and a Plumb remix. The album also includes brand new music from Silage and Mukala.

If this is supposed to be "the definitive collection of modern music" it claims to be, why is there music from 1996 (Gotee Brothers)? Complaints can also be made against the song selection. It is odd that "Do Your Feet Hurt" and "A Flowery Song," well known songs by MxPx and Five Iron Frenzy, are included. Both bands have released new albums since those songs were recorded. It would seem more logical to include new songs by these groups.

If the goal is to introduce you to new bands, Propska One is successful. Jennifer Knapp, Mukala, and Miss Angie were all unfamiliar to me. But their songs were strong enough to make me want to hear more. That is the balance this album makes. It gives you enough stuff you already like along with the music you havenít heard. Like any compilation, you wonít like everything here. A few songs confirmed my distaste for the artist. But Essential has put 17 quality songs on this album that will appeal to a lot of people. If you want more than an hourís worth of solid modern rock that will go over well with the youth crowd, this is a good album.

The Propska One collection includes:
Third Day: "You Make Me Mad"
The Insyderz:"Oh Lord, You're Beautiful"
All Star United: "Smash Hit"
Plumb: "Endure - The Remix"
Jars of Clay: "Fade to Grey"
Silage: "Original"
MxPx: "Do Your Feet Hurt"
Lounge Freak John Jonethis: "Punk Rawk Show"
Caedmon's Call: "Another Ten Miles" live
Jennifer Knapp: "Romans"
Five Iron Frenzy: "A Flowery Song"
The Gotee Brothers: "New South"
Mukala: "Soap"
Kosmos Express: "The Force"
Plankeye: "Sterling"
Miss Angie: "Hands"
Dingees: "Bullet Proof"

By Steve White (9/28/98)