Twenty Twenty is a surprisingly flashy band, translating all that sure-fire commercial musicality that would have appealed to church youth into religious messages.
At first glance, the cover of Twenty Twenty’s 1985 self-titled debut makes a lot of promises. The hair. The lasers. The futuristic band name. But this synthesizer-washed band from Louisiana shouldn’t be confused with 20/20, a ’70s power pop band worthy of at least a small Wikipedia entry. Or Twenty Twenty, a recent British pop band. Or 20/20, a rapper. They are, however, interchangeable with 20/Twenty, the stylized version of the name that was chosen for the band’s sophomore and seemingly final album, Altered. It is, needless to say, difficult to find information on this particular Twenty Twenty. What is available is limited to brief mentions of the band as part of the Christian AOR scene in the ’80s, including one somewhat terrifying mention of concert ministry.
But going into an album blind can be a thrilling prospect. And Twenty Twenty do make good on some of their uber-’80s synthpop promises. Opener “You Are So True” shows off the band’s hi-tech sound big time. Leading with a new wave keyboard line, the song very easily erupts into a definitively ’80s heady blend of synthesizer melodies and electronic drums. Guitarist Roscoe Meek even adds chugging guitar lines to the mix, which make up for the rather repetitive lyrics. Per the album’s liner notes, the band were certainly in good company for this debut, recorded in Nashville with marathon engineer Brent King (the so-called “Karate Man” who seems to have worked with everyone from Reba to Keith Urban) and fellow Christian band White Heart’s Billy Smiley producing the immaculate sound, making Twenty Twenty seem more and more like a proper synthesizer-led stadium rock band.
But where this album gets really fun is when keyboardist and Twenty Twenty’s go-to arranger Earnie Chaney let’s loose on synclavier and unleashes overly-digitized, rapid-fire synth lines. “Security Code” and “War Games” are paired together at the front end of the album and cloak mentions of Heaven in ’80s concepts of technology. My favorite verse from “Security Code” may be “Alternating and circuit-breaking/ That will never do/ You might think your life’s in sync/ It’s time to troubleshoot” before heading into the chorus that seemingly tells the listener to enter in their security code to the afterlife. On the flip side, “Danger Zone” continues the keyboard mania but not before opening on Meek’s most righteous guitar line on the entire album, a blend of Cheap Trick’s “Mighty Wings” with a dash of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”
For a Christian band, Twenty Twenty thankfully manage to rein in the preachiness, sticking to innocuous language that doesn’t necessarily have to be read as metaphors for Jesus. But their religiosity does occasionally become blatant, as in “You Can Know Them All” where lead singer Ron Collins coos, “Three-In-One are living today/ And you can know them all.” Chaney again arranged this track, and while it boasts an enticing melody and balladic tone, it marks an uncharacteristically somber point for the album. From this slow track, we jump straight into the energetic finale, “World Premier” (as in, the world premier of the Rapture?). “World Premier” is the “rockiest” of tracks on this debut, with an undeniably rock guitar lead and the album’s single biggest emphasis on Gary MacAnally’s bass.
Twenty Twenty is a surprisingly flashy band, translating all that sure-fire commercial musicality that would have appealed to church youth into religious messages. My first instinct is to make fun of the band for being so very quintessentially ’80s in their sound, but you can’t deny how catchy it is. They’re not Kansas. Or Styx. They’re simply using the rock indicators of such bands to draw listeners into their music. But there isn’t much indication that it worked. Twenty Twenty is a rarer album as it is, but Altered – released by Christian label Refuge in 1987 – was evidently scarce even at its first pressing. The only band members to continue spreading the word through music afterward were Chaney, who joined another Christian outfit, and Ron Collins, who would go on to release a solo album in 1992 humbly titled Simple Man. Twenty Twenty may have been ideally placed among Christian music heavyweights, but they seem to have been almost immediately forgotten, which is a bit of a shame because I can’t imagine there were many more Christian synth-rock bands floating around at the time with this level of musical talent.