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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Newsboys -- Go

 photo 220px-Newsboys_go_zpsukgschi6.jpg

In the history of my life I have spilled in these reviews, I've made it known that I lost my identity during the first six months of my marriage. I had never been in a long term relationship, and I didn't realize that you are actually still supposed to be yourself when you are in one. As that started to dawn upon me, I began to go back to the things I had always liked. One of those things was Newsboys, but Newsboys hadn't put out anything I liked in quite some time. However, in May of 2007, "Something Beautiful," a newer Newsboys song, started receiving significant radio play. The song seemed to be more about life and the Christian walk, as opposed to the paint-by-numbers worship the that band had been releasing for the last half-decade. I looked into the matter and saw that the Newsboys had recently put out a new album called Go, and lo-and-behold, it was receiving rave reviews, being called a return to form. That was all I needed to hear. I quickly relieved the corner FYE of their copy.
1. "Wherever We Go" A tongue-in-cheek, upbeat song, where the band exaggerate their importance in the grand scheme of things, but thank God for what opportunity they have to make the world a better place. This is the first time Newsboys have released a song that could be described as "fun" in four years.
2. "Go" The theme of Go becomes apparent on the second track, and its in the title. That's right, Go's title track is about going where the Almighty sends you. It's pretty clear from this song that the listener isn't quite getting the Newsboys of old. The songs are certainly more Christian-y, if that makes any sense. By that, I mean that while the older songs were about the Christian life, non-Christians could still objectively enjoy them. The songs here are about things only a Christian would understand, even if they aren't worship, per se. That's fine and dandy for those of us who follow The Way, but it's a little alienating otherwise. Love Liberty Disco, Take Me to Your Leader, Step Up to the Microphone, these are albums that invite the listener into the experience, make the Christian life an inviting experience. Go is an album for those who are already there. But hey, at least it's not a paint-by-numbers worship album, right? Right? Right...
3. "Something Beautiful" A beautiful song, highly indebted to the 80's. The fact that it's clear that frontman, Peter Furler, is actively attempting to craft a certain sound here, as opposed to just plugging out chords to back pre-fabricated corporate worship verses, is what drew me back to the band. Get me in with the music, and I'm more likely to appreciate the words, which in this case are all about the beauty of pure love, yet somehow never manage to cloy.

4. "The Mission" The opening salvo of songs are about being sent by God, but "The Mission" delves back into the history of those sent, showing a line 2000 years ago to now, backed by a high energy dance-rock song. A lot of people said around Go's time of release that the album is a return to Newsboys rock roots. That's not entirely true, though. This album doesn't rock like say, Take Me to Your Leader. However, as I said above, it does show that musically, the band appear re-dedicated to their craft. There is a definite effort here to achieve a particular sound, in this case, lightly propulsive, sometimes bombastic, sometimes high-energy dominated by guitars, synths, and live drums.
5. "Let It All Come Out" The first ballad of the album about a girl who's been abused. Kind of musically generic, but it still feels honest.
6. "In Wonder" Yep, it's a generic worship song. Turns out they aren't done with those.
7. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" And they follow that worship song up with a rap? This song should be absolutely terrible...but somehow it is not terrible at all. Furler did not miss his calling as a rapper, but he makes the song work, along with the high-energy music, and lyrics co-written by Steve Taylor (Taylor co-wrote lyrics for seven out of Go's eleven songs). Perhaps the song works because, for the first time in a very long time, the lyrics are actually vulnerable, and admit that life isn't always as rosy as a supermodel's cheeks.
8. "I Am Free" Ah! It's another worship song, and a cover at that, but at least "I Am Free" is bursting with energy, and inhabits a quick tempo few worship songs ever visit.
9. "Secret Kingdom" Musically an homage to the band's old hit "Breakfast," with its guitar line, bouncy drums, and whistles, but it doesn't quite register.
10. "The Letter (One of a Kind)" Another ballad at a point that I would have rathered something more upbeat. The song's not bad, though, even if live drums would have been more powerful than electric ones, and also spellcheck says "rathered" isn't a word.
11. "Gonna Be Alright" A lovely little closer featuring the comforting pop-and-crackle-backing of an old Evie Tornquist record, and an excellent, re-assuring chorus reminiscent of something the band would have put on Love Liberty Disco. The attention to craft is what boosts Newsboys' best work above their lesser, and I think this song is among their best.
So overall, Go isn't quite the return to form fans seemed to want to hope it into being, but it's not bad. It is enjoyable enough, and certainly a great respite from generic worship affliction. A song like "Gonna Be Alright" certainly brings me closer to God than yet another round of whatever songs from that corporate worship period I can't even think of right now because they were so unmemorable.

2006 Inpop
1. Wherever We Go 3:27
2. Go 2:52
3. Something Beautiful 3:51
4. The Mission 3:40
5. Let It All Come Out 4:20
6. In Wonder 4:12
7. Your Love Is Better Than Life 3:39
8. I Am Free (Desperation Band cover) 3:36
9. Secret Kingdom 3:21
10. The Letter (One of a Kind) 3:22
11. Gonna Be Alright 3:33

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