Less commercially successful than his former dctalk bandmates TobyMac and Michael Tait (now of Newsboys fame), Kevin Max has always been a black sheep in the Christian music industry. Recently in the headlines for identifying as an “exvangelical,” Max has been using his distinct voice and eclectic style to make some of the most interesting Christian music of the last 20 years (and yes, he still does identify as a Christian). Max’s catalogue spans styles and topics, and provides an artistic contrast to Christian music’s worship-saturated market.
“Infinite” from the 2015 album Broken Temples is a Lennon-esque, rhythmic ode to God’s transcendent nature. “Whatever you think is love / His love is infinite” Max croons, “Whatever you think is good/Whatever you think is right.” The lyrics echo universalism but are coupled with the structure of Philippians 4:8, a summation of Max’s artistic style. The provocatively titled “Jesus I Love You But Your Followers Freak Me Out” from 2020’s Radio Technika combines an infectious techno beat with stark lyrics that allude to Trump, the Crusades, and Westboro Baptist Church, before admitting “But I’m still one of them.” It speaks to the tension many Christians feel between professing our faith while also wanting to apologize for the hatred and inequalities perpetrated by others who claim to be Christian.
My personal favourites from Max are The Blood, a 2007 collection of classic gospel songs, and his first solo album Stereotype Be (2001), which played non-stop on my CD player when I was 14 years old. From the former, his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go” is transcendent, deep and dirge-like, embellished with spiralling trills that show off Max’s signature vocal acrobatics. Stereotype Be should be listened to in its entirety, if only to experience the initial emergence of Max’s artistic stylings from the commercial constraints of dctalk.
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