*David Crowder Band*
Pretty much ever since this blog began last August, we have received numerous requests to review the David Crowder Band. This is perhaps because not only has David Crowder been crowned the prince of modern worship, but theyâ€™re calling him â€œindie.â€ As usual the CCM scene (along with the mainstream industry, to be fair) is catching on a few years late that everyone is listening to â€œindieâ€ stuff. But David Crowder has had some degree of difficulty singing his praises to God, instead finding himself drowned out by the Christian critics singing his own praises. In the sophisticated parlance of Christianity Today, he â€œwallops you upside the head.â€
Itâ€™s an interesting an experience to hear an album for the first time several years after its release and after hearing every word that could possibly be said and reading every review that could possibly be written about it. The Crowder Bandâ€™s _magnum opus_, the Dove-Award winning _A Collision_, is old news at this late hour. But to satisfy our long-held-in-suspense readers and undertake an interesting musical experiment, we offer you our almighty verdict.
Allow us to begin by saying that if Chris Tomlin et. al are the â€œmodern worshipâ€ genre, then David Crowder is definitively _post_ modern. The idea behind _A Collision_ is basically to take as many musical genres as can be convincingly incorporated by six guys, smash them together in an intricately structured album format, and release them as an unabashed exercise in WTF. Before that is taken negatively, let the record show that no rock music is worthy of a good review without at least some small element of WTF. Something, however small, should always leave critics and fans alike going WHYYYYYY? Only bad artists (or non-artists, in all likelihood) reveal their complete hands.
So the jarring, sometimes baffling twists along the 21-track journey of _Collision_ arenâ€™t necessarily bad. When the negro-spiritual hums and tribal-sounding acoustic guitar riffs that open â€œBe Lifted/Hope Risingâ€ morph into a towering grunge-rock anthem, only to nosedive into a hand-clappin,â€™ banjo-accompanied, Sunday-afternoon sing. . . weâ€™re not blown away, but weâ€™re certainly intrigued. In fact, the individual WTFs generally work well â€“ odd stylistic mixes, unexpected shifts and unconventional interludes. And there are some truly fantastic tracks along the way. â€œA Beautiful Collision,â€ while certainly not groundbreaking, delivers respectable lyrics with towering Britpop ambition. Crowderâ€™s melody and the pervasive riff are highly addictive.
The rock tracks are without question the albumâ€™s highlights. â€œDo Not Moveâ€ smatters techno flair and acoustic-guitar embellishments all over roaring Muse distortion. Crowderâ€™s gift for melody travels ascending 5ths with the simple phrase â€œYou Are My Joyâ€ to superb effect. The third section of the album is proof that worship music always gets infinitely better as it gets less congregational-singing-friendly: thereâ€™s enough musical weight here that, if we were to hear this on a Pitchfork stream (which we wouldnâ€™tâ€”itâ€™s entirely too pleasing to the ear), we would think it excellent work.
But before we go too far into 5-star-review gushing, it must be said that there are an equal amount of wasted minutes on the lengthy record. Tracks like â€œWholly Yoursâ€ and â€œHere is our Kingâ€ are, despite sounding decent, nothing we havenâ€™t heard before. And while the WTFness works in the part, it doesnâ€™t so much work on the whole. _A Collision_, unlike most works of its length and ambition, isnâ€™t a concept album. â€œChaosâ€ may be an idea, but itâ€™s not a theme. It may seem ridiculous to observe that a postmodern album called â€œcollisionâ€ lacks overall coherency, but that is a problem here. Radioheadâ€™s _OK Computer_ is far more chaotic and deconstructive than the David Crowder Band can ever imagine being, and yet still pulls off a profound unified impact. Which is a shame, because Crowderâ€™s grab-bag of random (and generally excellent) material simply cries out for an overall point. It doesnâ€™t deliver, other than a general feeling of â€œwow, that was impressive/eclectic/intriguing.â€ The last track trails off with the listener imaging how amazing it might have been if this oddball symphony had somehow connected to make a point as grand as its scale.
Be that as it may, the artistic shock therapy that _A Collision_ performs on worship music as a whole cannot be praised highly enough. David Crowder and his five bandmates from Waco, Texas, have put the Christian music industry to shame from the inside. The fact that the David Crowder Band, young and fresh as they may be, stand so far above their nearest â€œworship genreâ€ competitors in musical and theological intelligence is a truly saddening affair. The Crowder Band are admittedly big fish in a small pond, but they are not too far from being really damn good and from teaching the industry a lesson or forty-five.
David Sessions is the editor of The CCM Patrol.
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