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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cool Hand Luke -- Wake Up, O Sleeper


Man, I feel bad for this album. Wake Up, O Sleeper came out at a time I was still high as a kite on Sigur Rós's () album. I wanted weird, and Wake Up, O Sleeper isn't.
What's worse, I still felt burned by that dadgum Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay album. Sorry to bring Coldplay back into this just when you thought you'd escaped, but the fellow DJ's who showed me the light of Sigur Rós also introduced me to Coldplay and Cool Hand Luke. After being bored nearly to tears by A Rush of Blood to the Head, I was set up to be equally disappointed by Wake Up, O Sleeper. Unfortunately, this meant that I gave Cool Hand Luke's Floodgate Records debut a couple of listens, threw it back on the shelf, and slipped back into my sweet Sigur Rós coma.  I found my Wake Up, O Sleeper disc specifically for this review project, and I'm glad I did.  I'm really enjoying it.
Wake Up, Oh Sleeper is far livelier than A Rush of Blood to Head, even though it features similar instrumentation.  The songs are just more exciting.  Cool Hand Luke have an indie-sounding edge that always keeps the proceeds interesting.  The bass and drums are placed just a little more prominently in the mix than the guitar and vocals, reminiscent of the late, great Elliott (I'll get to them later).  This gives Wake Up, O Sleeper a different sound from it's peers. Another edge are Mark Nicks' passionate vocals.  He may not be the best singer on the planet, but the listener can feel every word.  The fact that he doubles as the band's drummer is no small feat.  He is obviously a talented guy.
Of course, if someone is singing passionately, they must have something to be passionate about.  As Wake Up, Oh Sleeper is such an independent-sounding release, I at first found the spiritual frankness of Nicks' lyrics a little off-putting.  As I listen now, though, I find myself really enjoying the earnest, honest Christianity Nicks displays.  When he punctuates the Christ's-sacrifice centered "This Is Love" with a song-ending shout of "And I'd die for this!" there is no doubt he means it--that one yell has more power than a day of K-Love can muster.

Cool Hand Luke aren't afraid to experiment, either. I can imagine a straightforward Coldplay version of Cool Hand Luke's "Two Pianos," but the freedom of Cool Hand Luke's more idiosyncratic arrangement would always trump it.

Wake Up, O Sleeper is not only a solid album, it's an anomaly in today's musical landscape. There are very few bands today that are not only talented and artistically adventurous, but open and real about their faith. Cool Hand Luke had all of these attributes in 2003, but in 2012, I can count every band that fits this criteria on one hand. Thank God good music is timeless.

2003 Floodgate Records
1. Heroes Will Be Heroes 5:36
2. One Time 4:49
3. This Is Love 5:00
4. Nobody Hugs a Rose 6:10
5. So Shall It Be 4:04
6. Dreams for Sale 7:26
7. Two Pianos 5:28
8. Like a Bell Tolling from Anothre World 4:59
9. For You 5:59
10. O Shachah 6:52

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