Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A real music reviewer position, oh boy!

So I just finished my first CD review for Stereo Subversion, an Indiana based music blog which I feel is a step closer to achieving some sort of notoriety in the music industry. While I was assigned a Christian Rock band, something which I believe may have been some sort of test, I think I owned it! Instead of automatically putting my biased opinion forward, I explored the genre with an open-mind and ears.

Check it yo!
Cool Hand Luke
The Sleeping House

A progressive follow-up to their sophomore album Fires of Life, Cool Hand Luke continue their devout journey with The Sleeping House. After an extended four year hiatus and a new cast of members, the Nashville-based Christian band deliver a powerful and thought provoking message in their spiritual orchestration of intelligent lyrics and profound instrumentation. Founding member Mark Nicks (vocals/keyboard/drums) explores new musical territories alongside Joey Holman, in place of guitarist Chris Susi and Casey McBride, in place of bassist Brandon Morgan. Unlike previous releases, the songs on the new album carry a more aggressive, deeper, darker undertone.
Implicative of this is the album’s first track “Fast Asleep,” a slow-tempo experimental groove that employs deep piano progressions and cascading electric guitar. Serving as an ambient intro, “Fast Asleep” provides a connective lead in for “Cast Your Bread,” a soulful, heartfelt track interwoven with Bible versus from the books of John and Mark. Nicks’ soothing tenor vocals in “The Mirror”-- a song about a contemplative, conflicted persona Nicks sees in the reflection of a mirror--match perfectly with the foundation and dynamic of The Sleeping House. In the song, Nicks implores the Lord for individual guidance as well as for a girl who “turns on the T.V. to escape for free.” The well-constructed cry for help serves as the standout track and further exemplifies the band’s musical abilities.

Written on piano first, the twelve track album showcases Nicks’ divergent lyrical approach that ranges from the descriptively transcendent to the introspective contemplative nature of all humans. The soft, soothing sleep-provoking tracks live true to the “sleeping” theme with the exception of the ending track “Wide Awake,” which begins with soft redundant piano riffs and escalates to penetrating guitar and cymbal noise, leaving the listener anything but asleep.

The album’s art is pretty impressive and features an eight panel fold-out consisting of a diver’s underwater exploration drawn in an Aeon Flux fashion.

While I’m hardly a fan of Christian Rock and found it somewhat difficult to put my biased opinion aside and listen to the album without an “Eww, Christian music” attitude, I put forth my best artistic judgment and realized that music is more than the listeners interpretation. Despite the get rich/sell out scheme seasoned by most bands; it seems quite the opposite for Cool Hand Luke. Rather than implementing their remarkable musical talents to something more conventional or mainstream, Nicks sings about something more meaningful and personal. Nicks remains faithful and beseeching of the Lord’s presence throughout the entirety of the album especially in the track “The City Prevails”---Don’t be silent… Please, God, don’t be silent. From a questioning, to a pleading stance to a helpless desire, Nicks’ second to the last track, “The House” sets forth the message of necessity with the redundant lyrics “You, O God, I need you. You, O God, I need you.” Perhaps, more than anything, this retrospective album is just a personal outlet of devotion for Nicks and rest of the band.

Highlight Track: “The Mirror” Track 05

Album Grade: 7/10 (increments of .5)

Ashley Cass