Few bands have the lasting appeal of Martin Smith’s brit-rock quintet, particularly in the fickle Christian mainstream. Moreover, few bands associated with Christianity have managed to adapt their sound for a more demanding secular market with as much success. Delirious? have done both with relatively few failures (provided one ignores Audio Lessonover?, an album that tried to be Radiohead, but with half the brains). This year their seventh effort, Kingdom of Comfort, drops with the news that long-time drummer Stew Smith would be leaving to pursue other projects.
Delirious? seem comfortably aware of their talents, using them to occasionally push the limits of their trademark sound (or, rather, of U2’s trademark sound) on tracks like “Give It What You’ve Got,” a fist-pumping, guitar-led rocker somewhat reminiscent of The Killers, and “Eagle Rider,” a simple but effective Native American-tinged ballad. Most predictably, however, they maintain their particular brand of accessible brit-worship in “We Give You Praise” and “All God’s Children.”
Taking that into account, the designated “praise and worship” songs on this album are by far the weakest, if only because the band keeps a straight-ahead approach to moments of reverence. Time is the best teacher, and Delirious? have become veteran performers in their 15 years on stages all around the world. This improvised unpredictability is sometimes lost in the studio, and when synthesizers are lazily mistaken for ambience, reverb distracts from a weak vocal performance and lyrics are repeated ad infinitum (backed up with choir, no less) to serve as worship, what escapes me is why musical experimentation and genuine praise never intermingle. Sure, it might make it hard for an experimental composition to be incorporated into a worship service; still, David Crowder’s admirers seemed to have found ways of adapting his music for public consumption.
All things considered, the album works best when it ditches its plodding, stadium-sized aspirations for tight song writing and strong melodies. “Love Will Find A Way” (regardless of its quaint, off-putting title) displays an unbelievably talented group of grown men making whole-hearted anthems for a younger, more cynical generation, and doing an incredible job of it. The album’s best track (and one of the strongest of their career as well), “Stare the Monster Down” is an iambic rocker that rivals U2’s “Vertigo” in terms of its infectious hook.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot of comfort to be found throughout the course of this album. And while U2 have gotten stuck, it seems, peddling a revamped iteration of their earliest material, complete with shallow, unperceptive lyrics about politics and world peace, Delirious? don’t seem to be taking that route, leaving more room for doubt and soul searching than on previous efforts, and giving the great issues of our day (namely, the problem of third-world poverty and social division) a soundtrack steeped in hope— provided their anthems manage to be as persuasive as they’d like them to be, getting listeners on their feet and making the changes they’re so anxious to sing about.
There’s definitely room for growth in the future. After all they’ve done for the Christian music industry, it’d be a shame for them to take little more than a place as a derivative footnote in the story of Bono Vox and his wide-eyed punk quartet. Still, this purchase is far from a wasted one— if nothing else, leaving their audience ready for that spark of great potential to one day ignite: the day a great band finally become history-makers.
John Wofford is a freelance writer in Fairmount, Georgia.
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