About Bring It Down Now:
Life is like that. There are legends and then there are Legends. And Mike Knott is one of the few in the CCM industry who's career's work has spanned the borders of alternative music, the California scene, and most recently the mainstream market to influence numerous musicians. Through his ventures into label ownership, his distinctively spontaneous theatrical live shows, and his band L.S.U., Knott has made legend. In their final release, Mike Knott and Co. wrap up a decade of L.S.U. with reaffirmations of their foundational faith while living up to their reputation of challenging the church with the uncomfortable truths of human existence.
Gray Dot's 1996 release from L.S.U. is the definitive look at the band behind the man (behind the legend). L.S.U.'s classic material is held up next to five new cuts and six first-ever live songs, accentuating the traits that make L.S.U. the pioneers of the last ten years, and keep them at the forefront of modern Christian rock today.
A full 74 minutes in length, the CD features the latest new work from L.S.U., produced by Gene Eugene, first-ever live cuts, produced by Michael Hawkins and J.C. Richardson, and a best-of selection spanning the band's fifteen-year history.
Bring it Down Now is unique in its ability to reference the listener to all of the band's work while presenting a current and thematic project as a whole. All songs segue together, emphasizing Knott's consistent genius song writing wholistically. In 1986, Sacramento California experienced a revival that impacted Contemporary Christian Music permanently. An explosion of churches that focused on youth yielded the founding fathers of Alternative CCM - the bands that paved the way for today's Plankeye, Prayer Chain, and others - bands like The Choir, The Altar Boys, Adam Again, and of course the most groundbreaking of them all, Lifesavers Underground.
Now, for the first time ever, the entire span of L.S. Underground's career is offered up at once to a buying public who only knows of Knott & Co. through their Elektra Records incarnation, Aunt Bettys (formerly Aunt Betty's Ford, a name nixed when Ford Motor Co. threatened to sue.) For the uninitiated, meet L.S. Underground, featuring Mike Knott, Brian Doidge, Chuck Cummings, and Andrew Carter, as well as members of Arista's Prayer Chain, Domo's The Violet Burning, and Tattoo's The Choir. For the well-versed, enjoy the masterpiece swan song from the ever-volatile L.S. Underground.
Mike Knott and Lifesavers had shown hints of promise in the mid-80's, but nothing prepared us for the assault of Shaded Pain, released under the L.S.U. moniker in 1987. When I got around to rating the best of that year, I found Lifesavers Underground in good company: U2, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, John Hiatt, The Call, the Smiths, DA, and Mark Heard's Ideola. The fact that there were only two other CDs from Christian labels on my list from that year will indicate how irrelevant much of what passes for contemporary Christian music had become.
Eight years later, it would be easy to discount the album's impact. After all, it didn't sell mass quantities or turn L.S.U. into international pop stars, even within the gilded framework of the ccm community. In fact many Christians found the aggressive pop/punk music and brutally honest perspective of Shaded Pain a difficult listen at best. However, like Daniel Amos, Undercover, the Choir, and Adam Again, Mike Knott & Co. had begun to chronicle the reality of human experience and reflect on Christianity from a less idealistic perspective in music that mattered within the broader cultural context.
In 1990, as editor of Harvest Rock Syndicate I polled some of the most-aware music critics writing about Christian rock. Asked to name the "Best Christian Rock" of the previous decade, the voting named that album the 8th most influential recording. I wrote back then: "Seldom has a Christian label produced an album that is totally dark, Shaded Pain is one such effort ... Knott growls over the feedback-driven guitars ... Gritty, real, and searching, L.S.U., dripping with attitude, delivered an album for every young Christian (and some of us older ones who still have those feelings) struggling with identity and meaning in an age of doubt and disappointment."
While L.S.U. built a strong alternative Christian rock following on the West, only on rare invitations to perform at the Cornerstone festival did they bring their music within reach. Two such shows stand out. One, at the county fair north of Chicago in the large tin shed on a hot afternoon, found Knott performing music from Shaded Pain and the latest L.S.U. outing, This is the Healing. Standing stoic, nearly motionless on the stage, with a large white cowboy hat covering his eyes and a large white hollow-bodied guitar that fed back relentlessly, Knott held all eyes hypnotically.
The second was at the ramshackle impromptu stage down by the lake at Cornerstone's Bushnell, Illinois property. Backed by Doidge, Hindalong, and then-Choir bassist Mike Sauerbrey, Knott bounced up and down on the quickly-constructed stage, causing the p.a. to rock back and forth precariously. Dressed all in black, Knott tore his T-shirt and painted his face white at one point, and wrapped his hands and body in duct-tape at another. Legendary stories that he had performed in a dress and poured red paint over his face became immediately believable.
Amazingly though, the best memories that I have of those shows is how the performance served the music, and drove home its meaning. Mike Knott was a great rock performer, perhaps exhibiting that rare star quality that under other circumstances would have promised success. However, only 25 or so people saw that show by the lake. Too bad.
And, too bad that Knott's business acumen has never quite matched his creative sensibilities. Blonde Vinyl Records and other attempts to get his music and that of friends out to a broad listenership often ran into financial set-backs and organizational limitations. Knott always ran with a lot of juice, but often the machinery wasn't prepared to carry the freight.
The commercial unavailability of Shaded Pain, and many other of L.S.U.'s fine albums for that matter, is reason enough to be thrilled that this collection finds its way to gray dot records, Mike Knott, with lead guitarist Brian Doidge and a variety of drummers (including Steve Hindalong of the Choir, Chuck Cummings of Dakoda Motor Co. and Michael Hawkins of Sundays Child, who played live with L.S.U. in '94 & '95) have collected a strong assortment of tracks from various band and solo recordings and live shows.
Few songs capture the genius of Mike Knott and L.S.U. the way "Tether to Tassel," "Die Baby Die," "There's a Time" and "English Interpreter of English" do. For that matter, few careers warrant this kind of retrospective. However Lifesavers Underground have been a source of encouragement and enlightenment, and to some, controversy. Still, to those of us who turn to the laments of the Psalms and to Jesus' words upon the cross to make sense of the chaos of consciousness, L.S.U. was a positive witness. Faith does not wither in the face of doubt, it makes us better Christians, better people.
As Knott sings in "Shaded Pain:"
"What about the love we never find
Cut by the body forced to run and hide
What about the human, the human I am inside
How can we be forgiven if we don't live our lives
We throw off the shackles and then we wear the chains
we find out who we are and then we lose our names
We are meant for more than this life. By loving one another, accepting our individual experiences and seeking to grow in caring and understanding, we can make a difference. We can leave the shade for the bright, warm light of love, where we are lonely boys and girls no more.
Brian Q. Newcomb
Former Editor and Founder, Syndicate
Newcomb is now a pastor in St. Louis who writes about pop and rock music, "whenever they'll let him."
Is this the final final album from Mike Knott's innovative band? Well, with an artist this enigmatic, you never can tell. But one thing is certain--if this is Knott's wake for L.S.U., it's a grand celebration.
This eclectic collection surveys nearly ten years of L.S.U. history, from the classic "Shaded Pain," to the controversial "The Grape Prophet" to recent live and studio recordings. It's a must-have for Knott fans, and at 72 minutes on CD and 88 minutes on cassette, it's a fantastic buy!
To say that Mike Knott is a "maverick" would be understating the obvious. This gifted artist has not only flown in the face of commerciality throughout his career, he's shot himself in the foot so many times, his shoes must look like Swiss cheese!
Knott is an observational songwriter; the "Sherlock Holmes" of Christian rock songwriters. He can look at the stain on your tie and tell you what you had for breakfast. And he can also tell by body language, facial expressions, etc., what's going on in people's heads.
But if you're at all familiar with Mike's work, you know that his favorite subject is himself. Not that that is necessarily an egotistical way to write (though Knott's ego is ever present in his work.) It's simply that the subject Mike knows best is ... Mike.
There is a veritable "X-Files" of odd folks which populate Knott's songs; some so strange that you can't believe they have any basis in reality whatsoever. If these characters are indeed all made up, it supports the theory that Knott is as nuts as people have often suggested; if they are drawn from real life counterparts, it underscores the hypothesis that Knott is one of the best songwriters around. In either case, it doesn't make his music any less enjoyable.
Knott has always been fortunate to orbit the same universe as several great musicians, many of whom are represented on this project. Much of the music here comes from albums recorded for the great love and disappointment of Mike's career, Blonde Vinyl Records. Knott's boutique label served up a platter of amazing alternative sounds in its brief existence, not the least of which are the cuts from his own Wakin' Up The Dead, The Grape Prophet and This Is The Healing albums.
So as Knott enters what may become the most celebrated phase of his career with The Aunt Bettys, enjoy this slice of history; a decade of excellence from one of the finest artists to ever earn the reproach of an often short-sighted industry.
Bruce A. Brown
Rock / Alternative Editor, CCM Magazine
I've always said, Mike Knott realizes where the edge is, then finds the fastest vehicle to launch him as far over that edge as possible. He and his various musical manifestations serve to define how far is too far. He is a living example of dangerous art. In the early days I identified with his pain. Now I see in his current work the logical extrapolation of where that pain leads. I count him as a close friend, but sometimes he scares the hell out of me. It's good to be scared. Thank God for him.
John J. Thompson
Editor, True Tunes News
Bring It Down Now ties up all the loose ends of the Mike Knott / Lifesavers Underground experiment with an ambitious project that combines new material, live cuts (recorded at the Strand in Marietta, Georgia, in '94), remixes and best-of cuts all seamlessly edited together with dozens of samples lifted from far-ranging sources. More than just a "Greatest Hits" or "live-junque" collection, Bring It Down Now is Knott's attempt to get in the last word on the whole misunderstood LSU and put it down peacefully (as if that were possible) before the Aunt Betty's hits the stratosphere. With luck, and a little blessing, Aunt Betty's will ultimately shed light on this and Knott's other projects that have gotten him where he is today.
Those of you who've been trying to get ahold of those now out-of-print LSU records that came out on Blonde Vinyl are going to be very happy with this release. Songs like "The Bomb" and "Shaded Pain" from the Wakin' Up The Dead and Shaded Pain eras, and "Travels," almost to the present. Each song features liner notes that detail the humorous and difficult road this artist has traveled. When fans get the shock of swear words on the new Aunt Bettys album, maybe they will find solace in the live version of "Not A Cussword.: For this album, buy the CD and experience a whopping 52 tracks from Michael Knott and co.
RadRockers Music Emporium:
"A potpourri of pre-Aunt Betty's material + classics from previous projects no longer available + remixes + previously unreleased tracks + live cuts ... The long-awaited final L.S.U. album (now that Mike's new mainstream Aunt Betty's album is released) combines new material recorded at the same time as tracks for The Aunt Betty's project by Gene Eugene and The Choir guys with 'best of' songs from earlier works, remixes, previously unreleased tracks and some live cuts recorded early '95 at The Strand in Atlanta. All the songs segue (flow seamlessly without silence), creating and etherial, swirly haunting effect that will please fans of other dangerous albums like Circle Slide and Mercurious. 18 songs TT: 72:25 10-page insert w/ lyrics and historical notes."
(5 smileys out of 7)
"Mike Knott, mannen som er L.S. Underground er uhyre kreativ. Essensen av hans psykomusikalske univers kommer svaert godt til uttrykk pa denne skiva med gamle later fra 87 til helt nytt materiale.Latene til Knott er fulle av forstyrrende gnagerstoy fra lett forvrengte gitarer pa stodig pulserende og slagkraftig fundament. Og midt i manesjen en virvlende og hypnotisk Mike Knott med energiske stemmemanovre pa de fleste latene. Tilsammen en malstrom av en noe underlig, men svaert sa rocka musikk det er lett a al seg rive med av.Det er mye rart a finne pa denne CDen, men alt sammen henger godt sammen pa sitt eget litt merkelige vis.
Migisk, mystisk, metig og manipulerende med en klar egenidentitet. Slik velger jeg a oppsummere L.S. Underground og gidder ikke engang tenke pa a sammenligne geniet Knott med andre. Denne mannen er noe for seg sjol Kanskje an smule saer? Uansett, han er i alle fall stadig velkommen hjemme hos meg!
Anders Joh. Blisten"
Mike Knott, the man who is LSU is extremely creative. The essence of his psychomusical universe is very well expressed on this album with some old material from '87 to entirely new material. Knott's songs are full of disturbing gnawing noise from distorted guitars on a steady and pulsating base of striking power. And a whirling and hypnotic Mike Knott in the center of the circus ring sings with massive energy on most of the songs. A maelstrom of a bit peculiar, yet very groovy music it's easy to be carried away by. There's a lot a funny stuff on this CD, but everything are linked together in its own strange way.
Magic, mystic, mighty and manipulating with a distinct identity: these words sums up what LSU is about and I don't bother to compare the genius of Knott with others. This man is something of his own - maybe a little odd? Anyway, I welcome his music at my place - any time!
Anders Joh. Blisten
PRR charting action for 1994-1995
L.S.U. Charting History:
Michael Knott charting history:
Jan The Weatherman
Rocket & A Bomb
charts courtesy of The Pure Rock Report.
BLACK type indicates that the release is now out of print.
BLUE type indicates that the release is still being manufactured.
background vocals on:
Direct from gray dot records:
Send check or money order in the amount of $14.00 (U.S. Currency) plus $2.50 for shipping and handling to:
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From Your Local Retailer:
Your local store can order product through Spring Arbor distributors, the industry's largest, using these numbers:
CD: SPCN 000-510-0828
demo disc for store: SPCN 000-510-0860
Cassette: SPCN 000-510-081X
demo cassette for store: SPCN 000-510-9140
Poster: SPCN 000-510-8691
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Mike Knott, Aunt Bettys, Presidents of the U.S.A., Common Children, Plankeye