Keep America All Better Again (KAABA) is the new concept album from provocateur Christopher Hill. With dissonant sonic shears and evocative lyrics, Hill’s penchant for hope and underlying themes of friendship, love and death bind this tightly-wound collection. Hill takes special care, too, in giving listeners not only a wakeup call, but is a beacon of inspiration. From the chaotic “A Guided Tour of Lafayette Park” to the closing “Say Their Names” Hill grips the listener with unique perspectives and vigilance.
Hill, who goes by the pronouns they/them, channels a wide swath of imagination and avantgarde renderings. Hill’s searing political and economic projections are worthy – oh so worthy, but I personally found Hill at their best when singing about friendship. Hill covers this subject several times, including “Motorbike”, “Love Is Stronger Than Death” and “The Friendship Proverb”. One of my favorite moments in the reminiscent journey, “Motorbike” is when the country twang guitar evolves into the Laurel Canyon-esque electric guitar slices through the center of the song. Hill, singing with a glimmer or two, hovers over the murky instrument. In “Love Is Stronger Than Death” the beautiful lines I will keep all the bad ghosts away…my love for you is stronger, is stronger than death, flow like butter. Their voice, sounding prophetic meshed against the Bob Dylan-like harmonica. In “Friendship Proverb” the charming acoustic guitar warms the listener to the love that Hill espouses.
Going out of order a bit in my review, the first two tracks, “A Guided Tour Of Lafayette Park” reflects a flustered, rattled protest scene. The very quick “MAABA” follows. By the third track, the politically-charged title track has Hill pleading bring your love in, so we still have a country if logic wins. My favorite line in “KAABA” is find Miss Liberty and, free her hands again. Hill plunks along in the sonically-disconnected, “Squatters Rights”. Sounding more science fiction than traditional pop, “Squatters Rights” tingles the listener’s senses and peaks the highest of interests. Complete with a countdown, the song moves in-and-out like an alien landing on Earth.
In “The Coronavirus Prison Blues” Hill sings from the perspective of being a prisoner. I found this quite interesting, and I gushed over the Mariachi-like horn or brass section. The sticky guitar, practically glued to the bass lines, keeps great time. We’re here sleeping head to toe, you might not believe in heaven, but here’s the hell where people go, Hill sings. Dear good person, Hill continues pointing the attention to talking about members of Congress as, the greatest criminal minds among you always seem to stay free somehow.
“Say Their Names”, the last track, wraps everything all together. I found it remarkalble and profound that Hill chose to sequence this as the last track. Hill’s reciting, in a way that could almost be a lullaby, strangely soothing way, the names of murdered Black Americans. It’s a wakeup call, certainly not an attempt to bring calm and order. I think this is Hill’s way of creating a dramatic impact, exercising the opposite effect. Whatever the intentions, it’s stunning.