350. Against the Grain – Altar Boys
AGAINST THE GRAIN (1987)
The Altar Boys were easily one of the most important and groundbreaking bands in Christian music. Their decade of music making resulted in several distinguished releases and one true classic. Led by Mike Stand (brother of the Lifesaver’s Kevin Annis) the Altar Boys released their first album through Marantha Music sub-label Broken Records after having a song appear on an MRC sampler.
As a result of the first albums raw energy and Ramones-like approach to 2 minute punk rock songs the band continued to be labeled a punk band. The truth is as the band matured they became less punk and more influenced by Americana rock, just performing the style with loads of energy and passion. Mike Stand did not have the best voices of the Orange County alternative scene, but no one (NO ONE) matched his passion of performance.
Their fourth release was “Against the Grain” and though it did not have the production or commercial material that their final release, Forever Mercy, possessed, it remains one of their stronger efforts. the early passion of “When You’re a Rebel” is still there as the band integrated more musicianship and strong songwriting.
“Kids Are ON the Run” has more to do with Springsteen than the Ramones as Stands passionate and strained vocals clearly demonstrate a more rock appeal. “Hearts Lost in Nowhere” is the closest to the previous sound with a more punk guitar drive and a more attacking vocal arrangement. It remains one of the favorite live songs.
“Broken” shows a strong sense of melody then most of their previous catalog while “Where’s the New World” clocks in at over 5 minutes which is far cry from the 2-minute punk rock of the early releases. But here the title track is vintage Altar Boys. The album remains listenable over two decades later and stands as one of the most important and lasting records for its time.