The New Frontiers
[The Militia Group; 2008]


The New Frontiers introduce themselves with “Black Lungs,” a droning attempt at rock with a give-it-all you-got (which on this track isn’t much) feel. In fact, I can’t imagine the song being performed live without vocalist Nathan Pettijohn singing sideways into the mic with his eyes closed between bouts of strumming.

The first sound after the misplaced opener is the wavering organ chord that begins “The Day You Fell Apart.” Then a gentle piano melody, then background strum of an acoustic guitar, then gentle patter of drums. This is certainly an attempt at “indie rock”—complacent, ethereal, and relatively hookless. The main showcase is Pettijohn’s qualified Copeland-esque vocals which seem to be some kind of pre-requisite for being signed to The Militia Group. The other elements are pushed to the back seat—the melodies here tend to be either underdeveloped or understated, and few of the lyrics warrant much attention.

The interesting songs have as much to do with the bandmates’ beliefs (some loose form of Christianity, I’m sure) as much as they do the actual music. Yes, that is in fact the very concept behind the Christian music industry, but don’t write off The New Frontiers for letting Jesus, God and (if they were Catholic) Holy Water be the most intriguing subjects in their music. “Black lungs/It took you in when you were young/And everyone around you saw their sins/So you measured up/You wanted to find out/Just how far you could go” Pettijohn sings on “Black Lungs.” It’s a sentiment that finds its conclusion on “Spirit and Skin” where the band trades desperate soul-searching for matter-of-fact statements; philosophical waxing over what God is not, for simple observations on what Christianity is. And when was the last time you heard lines like: “We gotta learn to pray like Jesus/Learn to pray like Jesus/Cause when we learn to pray like Jesus/There is love,” delivered so sincerely as they are on album closer “Who Will Give us Love?” by none other than a young Copeland soundalike band living in Nashville?

There’s a lot of meditation over strum patterns and piano chords—vague ruminations over melodies that do nothing to really catch the attention. “Man Down” does manage to fit in a decent guitar riff that fills the space between the last piano note and the re-entrance of Pettijohn’s voice for one more repeat of the chorus; and several of the songs on the album’s latter half (“Passing By”, “Spirit and Skin”) lay off the atmospherics for the more uncluttered rhythm of a fingerpicked guitar and sleepy drum beat. But overall, Mending doesn’t contain much to criticize or, for that matter, recommend.

Timothy Zila is a pop music critic for Patrol.

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Tim Zila

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