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Date: 27 March, 2008
George Luke reviews the latest albums from Christian artists Delirious?, P.O.D. and Kate Voegele
The last few months have been quite an eventful time in the life of Delirious?
Drummer Stew Smith left the band after 15 years (he played his final gig with them at the O2 in March), and Martin Smith’s been busy with his new baby, the Compassionart initiative. In the midst of all this comes the release of their finest album yet.
Kingdom of Comfort sees Delirious? exploring the bond between worship and social action, combining a heart for God with a yearning for justice. It’s a path already trod by worship activists such as Andy Flannagan, and it’s also the ethos of Compassionart.
The title track opens the album rather understatedly – just a guitar and Martin’s plaintive voice – but things don’t stay downtempo for long. “Give it What You’ve Got” is brash and loud, “Eagle Rider” very stirring. “My Soul Sings” is another of those anthems Delirious? always do so well.
Describing a Delirious? song as “sounding a bit like U2” is kind of redundant, I know. But trying to avoid U2 comparisons while listening to “God is Smiling”, “Wonder” or “Love Will Find a Way” is like trying to ignore Dumbo in your front room.
I must admit, the more I listen to this album, the more uncomfortable I feel.
Take right now, for instance. Here I am, sitting on a comfy chair in a certain name-brand coffee shop with a certain fruity name-brand computer on my lap, latte in hand and noise-cancelling headphones blotting out my surroundings as I review a CD of songs urging me to eschew consumer culture and materialism.
I guess we all have our own ‘kingdoms of comfort’ to contend with. Thanks for the reminder.
It takes a special kind of band to have its music embraced by three completely different audiences simultaneously. But it’s a feat Californian nu-metallers P.O.D. have successfully pulled off before.
Fêted by hip Christians because of their beliefs, by Latin music fans because of their ethnicity, and by rockers in general because – well, because they rock – P.O.D. have demolished all the “angry white boy music” clichés that hover around nu-metal like a bad smell.
When Angels & Serpents Dance is P.O.D.’s first album since leaving Atlantic Records and signing to Colombia (ironically for a band that has always avoided the “Christian band” tag, it’s being distributed in America by the Integrity worship label). It also marks the return of guitarist Marcos Curiel to the band after a four-year absence.
Some might say nu-metal has had its day, but the better Christian nu-metal bands have always found ways to keep it fresh. Family Force 5 use wacky humour; P.O.D. on the other hand rely on their musical eclecticism – in particular their fondness for reggae.
They’re still peppering their lyrics with catchphrases such as “one love”, or referring to God as “Jah”. There’s even a guest appearance by Bob Marley’s daughters on “I’ll be Ready”.
The pleasant surprise is “Roman Empire” – a beautiful instrumental which starts out as a solemn flamenco, then gradually builds up into a Santana-esque bluesy jam. It might make hardcore rockers throw things at them on stage, but it makes me want to dig out my old guitar and start strumming. Lovely.
“Tell Me Why” is P.O.D.’s “What’s Going On” or “Where is the Love” (more the former than the latter, I’d say), and its anti-war, pro-justice theme continues on the closing track, “Rise Against”.
Overall, it seems that a few years out of the spotlight have made P.O.D. wiser and slightly mellower – but thankfully, only slightly; they still rock hard when necessary. When Angels… is a fantastic comeback.
I once commented that Tom (everybody’s Myspace friend) had become the unofficial band booker for various music festivals. That of course was in addition to his other unofficial gig as A&R man for some record labels.
As far as that job goes, he’s decided to stop being the middleman and launched a label of his own. Yes, the website responsible for thousands of artists bypassing labels altogether has launched a label. I’ll just let the irony sink in for a minute…
One of Myspace Records’ first releases is Don’t Look Away, the debut of singer-songwriter Kate Voegele. If you’re a regular E4 viewer, you may already know Kate from her recurring role in the teen drama One Tree Hill.
Kate learnt her craft in church and from her father Will – who, in addition to his day job in the real estate business, also writes and performs Christian music, and plays guitar in his daughter’s band.
Thankfully, Kate hasn’t tried to be the Christian doppelganger of Avril Lavigne (a position already filled by Krystal Myers). Her sound is warm and displays a maturity that far exceeds her 20 years.
The album takes its title from a line in the song “It’s Only Life” – a message of encouragement to stand firm when things get tough. Other standout tracks include “Top of the World”, “Might Have Been” with its shades of Lenny Kravitz, and the piano ballad “Kindly Unspoken” which closes the set.
With a quarter of 2008 already gone, Kate is currently my favourite new discovery of the year.
And how did I find her? She sent me a friend request on Myspace, of course…