I wouldn’t know it at the time, but Kevin Max would release my favorite kind of album as his solo debut in 2001. That would be the “middle space” kind of record that doesn’t really belong to Christian music, or entirely to the mainstream realm either. That would be the faith infused and creative, not the kind overly consumed with the message/propaganda at the expense of musicality and risk.
Creative and wild, weird and wonderful, Stereotype Be celebrates its twentieth anniversary today. As such, I thought it fitting to offer a tribute to the best of the three Dctalk member solo drops at the beginning of the intermission.
Wearing his Beatles and Bowie influences loud and proud, Max also incorporated eastern music influences to his alt-rock stylings, producing my pick for the most timeless (and best) of all Dctalk members post group solo material. Kevin would go on to chase his muse wherever it would lead, often leading to some outstanding work that remains criminally under appreciated beyond his fiercely loyal fan base/fiefdom.
Here’s a brief track by track rating and breakdown:
“Return of the Singer” (5 Stars)
Great opener with middle-eastern musical influences and haunting vocals.
“Existence” (5 Stars)
Soaring vocals and swirling strings paired with Kevin’s vocal vamps and a smattering of world music sounds.
“Be” (4.5 Stars)
An anthem for the outcasts. “Be yourself, don’t let the losers tell you what to do.”
“Angel with No Wings” (4 Stars)
More straightforward alt/rock though excellently done.
“Shaping Space” (4.5 Stars)
A turn toward the Beatles influence here with some brass instrumentation adding a new sonic palate to the album.
“Dead End Moon” (4.5 Stars)
High up in Max’s vocal range this one returns to the eastern musical influences of “Existence” and “Return of the Singer.”
“Union of the Soul” (N/A)
I’m not qualified nor adept at poetry so…
“The Secret Circle” (5 Stars)
A quirky tune, but I’m here for it. Love the acoustic guitar tone and dynamic shifts within the song. Top 5 of the album in my book.
“I Don’t Belong” (4 Stars)
Another one for those who feel on the outside, with a more driving rock direction and terrific backing vocals.
“Blind” (4.5 Stars)
The vibrato is in full flight on this one with a what sound like a sitar? assisting in the background.
“On and On” (4 Stars)
Slow and sweet the gentle guitar riff is sublime.
“Her Game” (4.5 Stars)
More Beatlesque moments here in the guitar riff Ave and Max’s self-harmonize vocal stacking.
“Deconstructing Venus” (4 Stars)
A rocker with some good quiet loud dynamics in the verse chorus structure. The latter half of the song has some top notch guitar soloing.
“I Went Over the Edge of the World” (4 Stars)
I Never connected with this one much. Still good alt-rock with a pleasant hook, just doesn’t grab me like the rest of the album.
Average: 4.423 = 4.5 Stars Overall
All in all, Stereotype Be is a great album. It’s hard to classify, as it’s not necessarily a Christian album, nor do I think Max would want it to be called such. Really I’d say it belongs in the convo with other faith-based and more underground independent artists who came before him like the 77s, The Choir, Adam Again, The Lost Dogs, Steve Taylor, etc. It sonically stands apart from these on its own, but it’s spirit is similar—music for everyone informed by his faith but not overshadowed by it so as to be open to all regardless of their spiritual journey. To me, that makes for a timeless record and in my opinion Stereotype Be fits that criteria.
Last word: Definitely worthy owning. A vinyl must if you collect the medium.
Happy 20th Kevin Max and Stereotype Be!
Another post or two you might enjoy: What If Dctalk Never Went Solo? A Hypothetical 6th Album, Every dc Talk Song Ranked