L.S.U. - THIS IS THE HEALING (1999, M8) + bonus tracks
M8 version with bonus tracks
Customer note: there are two versions of this release one being the original which you are looking at and the other an M8 release (a defunct distribution outfit that re-mastered this iconic release and added three bonus tracks) which you can find through Amazon when you look into descriptions from independent sellers. I highly recommend the M8 release to Michael Knott fans. To the Knott curious getting the digital version should give you everything you need. I will be reviewing the album proper and separate the M8 release review as a sub-blurb.
"This Is the Healing" was my introduction to L.S.U. and the incredibly prolific artist and alternative Christian music pioneer Michael Knott. I don't like all of his stuff (the well-received "Dogfish Jones" for example) and much of his music lacks a certain polish (often and most obviously from limited production standpoints) which can be a blessing as it's part of the charm and a curse as it limits his appeal to a wider market. "This Is the Healing" certainly lacks a sophistication and polish and it's definitely not nearly for everyone. Musically and lyrically it's abrasive calling especially the Christian community to account ("Not A Cussword" and "G-G-G") amid buzzsaw guitars and heavy percussive rhythms. Given that this music was largely circulated within a small segment of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) it was nonetheless created for all to consume, believers and non-believers alike. Knott was always concerned with expressing the gentility and tenderness of God's heart for His troubled and tried creation. Knott superimposed man's fickle, flawed, and violent heart over his vision's of God's love for us so as to contrast it and make it clear all the more. The title track, "This Is the Healing", is a clear call to one and all from the mouth of God to "give me your tears from all your bitter years." It was this clear-minded approach that made Knott so loved by a select few while his distrust of the machines of man, including institutionalized religion especially within the larger Americanized Christian culture, made him hated and distrusted by so many more.
L.S.U.s (Lifesavers Underground) first release was the heavy, dark, almost gothic classic "Shaded Pain". They followed it with the much lighter, fun at times, and creatively diverse "Wakin' Up the Dead". The third L.S.U. release of "This Is the Healing" kept the buzzsaw guitar sounds generated initially on WUTD and pared the lyrics down even further, making them much more obvious and less poetic and dense as they had been on SP. Dwelling on topics that CCM wouldn't touch Knott called for hope and healing amidst the darkness and brokenness of our lives by seriously considering the type of people we are/ claim to be and then falling in repentance before the Lord. Some of these songs continue to resonate like "Suicide", "Not A Cussword", "G-G-G", and "This Is the Healing". Others are obscurities like "Loved One" and "Chucky". Knott would go on to far greater heights than TITH but this remains an essential and fascinating stop along the way. 3.75 stars.
1) Miracle ~ The drum machine that starts us off is painfully obvious and was not the best way to start the album. The song is a sobering drone of vignettes of people who are suffering and waiting for the proverbial and literal miracle. The guitars are like buzzsaws and I'd never heard this sound before at that time.
2) War ~ This song made use of Knott's sister (I think) doing a little operatic singing at the beginning. It sounds like a tightly constructed and wound haunted house (of all things) that is unwinding, unspooling. There are moaning voices, morose vocal tones, and it's a bit weird. I think that Knott means the song to be an allegory for trimming the branches to save the tree, or cutting off the hand to save the body...but he applies it to a sinister effect.
3) Suicide ~ Of all things this song, though it's not poppy in any way, has more energy and an upbeat tone compared to the first two tracks. It's also the first memorable track with the refrain of "Don't die/ Don't give me that suicide/ I want you for my love". Knott paints a sympathetic picture for the one who is at their wits' end.
4) Not A Cussword ~ Chances are if you're familiar with Knott but not this release you've still heard this song. It's one of the greats. Concisely stating a gospel narrative and talking as from Jesus' own voice Knott repeatedly sings in almost a craze "I'm not your cussword, am I-eeee?" Shocking to the senses of those who claim to worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior on the one lip but turn around and use His name as a declarative epithet with the other lip; shocking and hopefully convicting. I love the part when Knott slurs "I forgive...I forgive...you...."
5) Hummingbird ~ Over a buzzing bed of guitar and a looping drum a female vocal (Knott's sister again I believe) goes all opera in an alto vocal. I don't know what she was singing and this is one song I don't like.
6) Loved One ~ Picks up the literal pace/ tempo and is a prayer someone's loved one. It puts some energy back into the proceedings.
7) Shallow ~ Is a good song that gets overshadowed by the better songs on this release. It's a slow chunking plod that asks the listener "are you living life shallow" and tells "I've found love that will never be over". Knott doesn't do scat on the song but he adds his nonsensical vocal flourishes throughout.
8) Chucky ~ I always wondered who exactly is Chucky and why was he going to London? The song's kinda fun and memorable for all the wrong reasons. I still haven't learned who Chucky was.
9) G-G-G ~ A harrowing song, and terribly convicting too. "One day I'd like to be the judge/ Judge, jury, and the executioner/ To the ones who kill the unborn/ And to the men who seek after their own//G-G-G Jesus, give me, give me, give me love/ Give me, give me, give me Understanding". Fantastic lyrics that penetrate deeper than what I listed highlight this important song. I think that the melodic stutter that Knott uses as part of his plea/ prayer for himself in the chorus is both intentional and perfect as it plays up the fault in ourselves, that area where our pride puffs up and makes us feel like we can stand in final self-righteous judgment over others. The words in this song are hard to swallow (he both distances and likens himself to a Ku Klux Klan member and snarls at and humanizes a child molester), but we join him in these affiliations when we sing along in the very catchy chorus and his prayer becomes our prayer too. One of the great Knott songs of all time, served by a solid thick bass line.
10) This Is the Healing ~ The album ender and title track hits high notes with Knott's vocals rising to exclaim the moment of salve and salvation while the rhythm section keeps it clear and bright and the buzzing guitars offer more of a bouncy cadence. It's a final moment of exultation and it works perfectly. They nailed it with this one.
M8 records re-issued this classic and threw one 3 bonus tracks. It was a great thing they did as this album was either previously not set to CD or incredibly hard to find on CD. The re-issue keeps the track listing in order if I remember correctly and presents the source material clearly and cleanly. The three bonus songs are a cleaned up version of "G-G-G" that strips the buzzsaw guitar in favor of a high strung steel string picked electric and this recording keeps the drum machine sound but makes the whole song sound fresh. Second up is "She Lies" which, according to Knottheads on H, was originally a Bomb Bay Babies demo. It's a blast of raucous but barely focused energy and the guitar line and vocal melodies sounds like it they were probably later reworked into/ as the basis for the song "Liar" off of Knott's solo debut album "Screaming Brittle Siren". That was a kicking song! "She Lies" less so. Lastly there is "I Can't Wait" which sounds like a demo version for the same song that is a nice piece of pop confection found on "Kiss of Life".