Jesus Wept, by PM Dawn
This is the album where PM Dawn’s audience as far as albums are concerned checked out on them. Although their fourth and final studio album, Dearest Christian…. would (like this album) spawn a moderate hit, the last two albums of PM Dawn would not find much interest from mainstream audiences. It is admittedly puzzling why this album was so unsuccessful and why it remains so obscure to the point where only two songs on the album have been streamed more than 100,000 times (a rather pitifully low number for an album by a classic R&B/hip hop group from the early 1990’s). This is by no means a bad album. In fact, it is a very good album, albeit a very good album of a particular type, and that is a melancholy and reflective album that is best suited for a cloudy and melancholy day. Few acts have sounded as miserable and unhappy to be in the mainstream as PM Dawn did, and few acts have placed their melancholy in the same sort of beautiful arrangements that this album has either. An album of gnostic spirituality, this album comes off as a cry for help that, sadly, no one heard.
In terms of its contents, this album is about an hour in length, and despite having two short tracks (an intro that influences the album’s spiritual and melancholy musings as well as a short 20-second instrumental interlude called Silence), the average song on this album clocks in at just over 4 minutes apiece. Both of the most accessible songs on the album, second track “Downtown Venus” and penultimate track “Sometimes I Miss You So Much,” were released as singles, but there are other standout tracks to be found here, such as the aching “I’ll Be Waiting For You,” the spiritual “A Lifetime,” and the gorgeous “The 9:45 Wake-Up Dream.” A lot of the songs on the album reflect a tension of love (“Why God Loves You”), isolation (“Miles From Anything”), emotional turmoil (“My Own Personal Gravity,” “Forever Damaged (The 96th),” “Apathy Superstar!?”) as well as spiritual questing (“Sonchynne”) that demonstrates the band was in a crisis sort of period in this album.
No one, apparently, in the mid-90’s wanted to pay attention to this crisis, though. And it is hard to tell what the crisis involved. The lyrics of the album are a mix of musings about God, about romantic love and the ways in which love for God and love for women can be dangerously intertwined in the act’s thinking and feeling, and the album closer “Fantasia’s Confidential Ghetto” ends with a cover of “Lime And Coconut” that hints that maybe even physical indigestion from the bad diet of a life of fame may account for a substantial part of the act’s misery during this period. That is the problem with a gnostic spirituality, in that the changeable moods of a deceptive heart can signal one to be doubtful about one’s place of security (or insecurity) with God, who is not subject to such mood swings as we are. Ultimately, the group’s lack of a firm spiritual founding led their lack of satisfaction with fame and its trappings into a spiritual crisis that filled the back half of their discography with albums that many people did not take the time to listen to, much less attempt to understand. And that is a great shame.