To any NIV-thumping, tract-packing proselyte, the local Christian book store has traditionally been the first line of defense in the battle of CCM awareness. And though this wasn’t always the case, these stores increasingly represent the front lines of the Christian music industry. Even with the remarkable spike in digital music sales, there remains a sort of coming of age significance (often followed by an older coming of age disillusionment) and an almost secret-society-like self appointed relevance within the brotherhood of the sanctified marketplace. A visit to my favorite faith-centered literary outlet brings with it the guarantee of kitschy crap (“Jesus died for MySpace in heaven,” “Testa-mints,” “FaithBook”), the latest mennonite puns from the clever staff* (Haste the Daae, Newsboyds, Lifehause, Hawk Nielssen, Big Daddy Wiebe, and the timeless Daemon Guenter “Strom the Goetz of Hell”), browsing but never buying, and of course the always lovely Christian/secular band comparison chart. No doubt you’ve seen its dead on comparisons noting that dc Talk = Weezer, and Newsboys = Radiohead (dead serious). And although these unforgivable sins are laughably inaccurate to any eared human beings older than 8, its exciting when a band comes along with enough vision and creativity to throw a wrench into the pointless obsession with comparison credibility misappropriation. Edison Glass is such a band.
Their 2006 debut A Burn Or A Shiver was, although relatively conventional, a hell of a first swing. Due less to its stark novelty than its razor tight focus and rampant cohesion it was in a word, solid. Of course for this in part we must offer up our thanks to the sovereign production of Brad Wood (Sunny Day Real Estate, mewithoutYou, The Smashing Pumpkins) who could (if the shoe fit) make microwave popping corn sound tighter than the pants from a Stryper press photo.
This time around the credit is all Edison’s. With Nathan Dantzler (Who? Exactly.) at the sonic helm results are less immediate and, although the production values are essentially the same as before, it carries at times a subtle banality altogether new to the Edison Glass presentation. More often than necessary, hook-less songs explore a weaving path through winding yawns and ho-hum melodies, held together with inevitably blase guitar tones. As with any band teetering on the borders of pop and prog they stumble upon moments of true even-handed brilliance, unfortunately all too forgettable in the end. The aforementioned comparison chart would do well to tell you that at their best they put together the broken puzzle pieces of Cursive, These Arms Are Snakes, Sleeping At Last, and Further Seems Forever, while at their worst they flirt with Sparta, Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s ghostly yowl, and an uninspired reincarnation of the Jesus Lizard. In reality the chart will preach that “if you like The Fray, Meatloaf, Nirvana, The Beatles, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bach, Jay-Z, Aaron Neville, and Zao, you’ll _love_ Edison Glass. Well, who wouldn’t?
Fiction peels out with the first single “Let Go” and once you’re over some of the poorer lyrics and out-of-place references to historical figures (seriously, you name your band after two dead geniuses and still think it necessary to name drop Einstein?) its pretty obvious that this is one of the record’s standout tracks. It (for better or worse) brings with it one of the discs’ best moments in a sing-along, clap-along acapella breakdown, meaning that while we immediately witness the growth of an impressively assorted bag of tricks, we have in fact peaked 1 minute and 10 seconds into the first song. Herein its more of a wishy-washy plateau than a rapid decline. “All Our Memories” is the unexpected best track due in large part to the Jekyll and Hyde dynamics, the lovely chorus (“oh to be more than lovely, we can be lovers”), the climbing harmonies, and the suck-in-your-gut, vocal range muscle flex nearing the end. “Jean Val Jean” is a poignant lesson in less is more, highlighted by the last half; a gentle staircase of bells, strings, and melody singing “Its a battle between grace and pride,” which might be a better definition of the record than any I could give.
Opposite to how a catchy hook can trump a shallow concept, their determination to don the blinders and stay the course overcomes their lack of instant payoff. It’s their commitment to the cause that wins me over, and their lack of everyday radio ready hues that convicts me of almost always caring way too much about constant gratification. Essentially Edison Glass play indie rock like a hardcore band might. They demand participation, and force us to work for our pleasure. And since its at times a test of patience, the reward seems all the more worthwhile. In a world overwrought by sub-genred madness, Edison Glass emerge as possible heirs to the prog pop (dare I say “prop” **) throne or “art-mo” ** dynasty. Its art rock for emo kids, the thinking man’s pop-punk, and the every-man’s prog rock. The next-next big thing, for the post-post-post-hardcore generation.
*Colin Richet of Stereotrap demands and deserves all “nu-menno” related kudos.
**Jordan Kurtz reluctantly and defiantly admits to loving sub-genres.
Jordan Kurtz is a writer, musician, and radio host living in Canada.
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