Growing up in a Christian household it's highly unlikely that you wouldn't have been exposed to the sounds of Christ-rock luminaries DC Talk, who along with bands like Skillet, P.O.D. and Project 86 formed the basis of my record collection as a 12 year old. As if I really needed a reminder of such a sordid past, I now find myself reviewing Toby Mac (the primary DC Talk-er)'s obscure new record, "Diverse City".
Admittedly, it perplexes me as to how this got between my grubby fingertips. This is not a rap record. Instead, this record traces its musical lineage back to Mac's previous output with his sterile rap-rock outfit. Track 1 is a throwback, but its appeal really hinges on whether you enjoyed POD and E-Town Concrete circa 1996. Big crunchy nu-metal power chords meshes with punchy bass and semi-shouted refrains of "This is the slam! This is the one!", concluding with Mac's misguided attempt at emulating Twista's frenetic rap/scat/toast style. An interesting, albeit strange opening track. "Diverse City" proceeds to offer Mac's best Rick James/ Roger Troutman/ Bootsy Collins impression. Sadly, this track is awful. Contrived and devoid of the inventive muscle that his mentors boasted, this track comes off as a sanitized Crazy Town.
To make matters worse, "Gone" presents a tired rehash of college-rock stereotypes. If you were ever into Fastball, Three Doors Down, Splender, Everclear or the Verve Pipe (aka dime-a-dozen, flash-in-the-pan pop-rock devoid of balls or creative thrust), this track might please you. While I am trying hard to salvage my critical integrity and avoid using emotionally-informed language, this track is absolutely atrocious- the three-chord songwriting, the whiny alt-rock vocals, the haplessly cliché "she said…." Lyrics, the over-production, the maddeningly unadventurous verse-chorus-whispered bridge-chorus format, everything about this song tugs at my gag reflex. It saddens me to think that Cheap Trick's mix of saccharine hooks and driving, simple power chords lead to something as impotent as this. "Phenomenon" rounds out this pitiful collection of full-length tracks, once again treading on Crazy Town-esque ground. Absolute drivel.
It isn't all bad, however, I should in truth be grateful for the fact that EMI has exhibited some concern for my mental health- the following 7 tracks are all presented in snippet form, though the brevity does not entirely alleviate the torturous experience. "Hey Now" is 42 seconds of Len-like sunny pop-rap that chimes "Hey now…one love one god" with irritating frequency. "Getaway Car" sounds like Funkadelic reinterpreted by 10 year olds. "Catch A Fire" opens with a beat DJ Quik would have made if he were strung off acid, deteriorating further into a nu-metal chorus. "Ill M I", Mac's full-fledged foray into battle rap, boasts such gems as "get squeezed fresh like juicy Sunkist" and "you got that right, I'ma rock the morse code tonight".
I could continue to rant about how repulsive this record is, but I will relent in an effort to stop insulting your intelligence, which is something that TobyMac excels in. One would expect Mac to realise that the 10 to 13 year olds who grew up listening to DC Talk have grown up since then, and can only wish that Mac had done the same. I am flabbergasted as to how this record manages to seamlessly blend the most repugnant elements of modern rock into one frighteningly lousy album, and it pains me to say that the solitary positive of this review is the fact that I got to use the word ‘flabbergasted'.
Music Vibes: 2 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 1 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 1.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 28, 2004