ICYMI (Best of 2018): The Religious Right Send the USA into the Great Beyond
The Religious Right know damn well what they’re getting themselves into. Both with that evocative name and their overall mission as a rock-and-roll band. Singer-songwriters Johnny Chastain and Derek Porter have been making music together for well over 15 years, and their relationship has only tempered over time.
“We’re using our own creative output as our attempt to reclaim and redefine the bizarre history of religion, belief and politics in America,” says Porter.
Chastain lives in Chicago and spreads the word in the streets through several avenues, while Porter lives in Nashville, TN fronting the sardonic sunshine country outfit Pageant along with his sister Erika, but time and distance and lots (and lots) of life have created a familiarity within the Religious Right that is indispensable to the soul of their music.
“Making music in this way, with these people, is as natural as telling old stories with your family,” Chastain says. “It just makes sense.”
Which is a great time to bring saxophonist Chris Watkins, Esq. into the picture. But how could you miss him, really? With Porter and Chastain bringing their sad, angry, often-times lovely stories to life with bouncing, ambling, often-times rocking arrangements, Watkins can’t help but make himself the life of the party. Which isn’t to say he can’t play his soul, because he can. I was there when he presented his undergraduate thesis and it was wonderful.
But besides lauding a few old friends, I feel this album should be on people’s radars because cathartic, thoughtful social expression is changing in ways both good and bad. One doesn’t need a human voice to “say something” these days (one never has, really…but you know what I mean in regards to pop music…I mean, it’s a popular music blog for Christ’sake…), but it’s always a great joy to find such earnest, tuneful expression in an environment both vacuum and endless. I don’t want to give Spiritualized more philosophical clout than they deserve, but they were absolutely right – ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. And instead of watching everything burn around us on our iPads, why not “Unfuck the World”? Don’t worry, baby – it’s “Alright, Alright”.
Do yourself and favor and let the radio waves of American Wake take you on an old-fashioned road trip. Don’t touch that dial!
Adam Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, cats, and guitars.