I've been hearing lots of great things about the RendCollective and so saw that their latest album was available on iTunes and succumbed to the 'buy now' impulse.I was excited to have to potter home listening to the album on my new headphones. What was I expecting - well, some angst ridden postmodern folky music with real depth and passion. Not sure where I got that idea from. Certainly I thought it would be closer to Mumford and Sons or Elbow. Perhaps with a dash of Coldplay or Owl City in there somewhere. Someone told me afterwards that it is Celtic Rock. Ah right, well, perhaps.
Instead I found it was a tad different. Some of the tracks are inspiringly brilliant and I sum up these at the end. Perhaps I am just in that kind of a mood but they tend to be the more contemplative and Celtic songs. There are others which I don't like and that may be that they are just too contemporary. But I like a lot of contemporary music. I even like Glee and can laugh during Eurovision. But I'd have to confess some of these toonz made me think more of Eurovision than of Mumford and Sons. That was a sad surprise. But other people will love the live happening beat.
Thanks for the richness of 'Alabaster' though - truly wonderful. Saved the image and story from Gaganess. (Let the reader understand!)
These are my views - tons of other people are giving it five stars! So read other reviews too!
The album opens with a jaunty number called Praise like fireworks. I have to say this is more Glee than Mumford and Sons with backing vocals and 'yeah' flourishes. It's a foot-tapper. Some strange lyrics ('my concrete heart') and somewhat run of the mill cadences. I felt like a grumpy old git by the end of this - not sure I would want to sing this in Church on Sunday - glib, self-certain, shallow both musically and, I'm afraid, theologically. 3/10
The next song is the RendCollective's version of Be Thou my Vision - using some modern version which doesn't really fit into the rhythm of the song too well in places - listen particularly for "You are my battle---------shield, sword for the fight". More chronic crooning backing vocals. It's a kind of speeded up version of the usual melody, I suppose and is singable but I found it lacked depth and passion for such a historic hymn. 3/10
Then comes the drum machine and 'ohohohohohoh'. There's more feel to this song and I suppose it feels more contemporary than the previous songs on the album. I spent some time exploring what the lyrics were - I think it is 'I've counted up the cost', but I thought for the first few times of listening that it was 'I've conjured up the cost' and wondered whether it was a literary reference to CS Lewis and Old Magic or an attempt to bring in Harry Potter Theology. Sadly not - just my poor hearing skills! But I have to say that the 'ohohohohohoh' thing in the background it sooooooo annoying. Now, the CODA is a different thing altogether - a piece of sublime beauty! Wish the whole song had been delivered in that style. 4/10 (CODA 10/10)
'Second Chance' picks up the quieter strains of The Cost with vocal and guitar. This is the most played song so far. I could listen to this again and again. Anthemic. Excellent build and skillful use of other instruments to build the song. Wonderful. "Oh your cross, it changes everything". "The second chance is heaven's heart" - that's an interesting theological statement but I think that it is pretty straightforward. Even if we mess everything up, God's grace is enough to get us back. Love this song. 10/10
Bizarre opening to 'True Intimacy' - don't listen to it with a headache. This is pure Eurovision. Great words, I think...but too pop for me. Needed some depth in lyrics and music. But I think this song will really appeal to lots of people and I can see it being sung in big festivals - "There's nothing greater than kno---Wing you" could have scanned better... 6/10
'Build your kingdom here' - another jaunty number with some cracking scan issues with the lyrics. This seems to be an issue for them. Often lyrics don't match the scansion of the music and so words tend to be broken over lines or rhythm. This is fine but on every song it tends to suggest a rather broken lyric rather than a folksy playing. This song will be popular - with its call for revival and Celtic humming backing vocal - nice rhythm to it. All it needs is a cheesy key change to be brought in at the right point. 6/10
I love Desert Soul - great sense of mystery to the song and some good lyrics which tend to scan well. "I'm lost without your creative spark in me, I'm dead inside unless your resurrection sings". Like 'Second Chance' - brilliant song well presented and with heart. Like this one a lot - lovely Celtic cadences in the Anthemic build section. 10/10
Oooh folk guitar at the beginning of this one - 'Christ has set me free' - like this on first hearing although... - despite some lyric brokeness - although there is no place here for postmodern angst or PeterRollinesque doubt. Christ has set the bloke free from darkness and cynicism and everything is rosy and wonderful and brilliant. Christ has set us free from negativity and impossibiliteeee. I am not so sure about that kind of glib theology. Is that really what Christ is about. Interesting that Christ stands out here when so many other references have been to Jesus. It's an OK song but trite. 5/10
'Keep me Near' - Celtic through and through - images of God's tide, presence, weakness, focus, grace. Well produced and musically simple but satisfying. 10/10'Alabaster' - again one of the quieter songs, builds wonderfully. Very very worshipful song recounting the story of the anointing in a really moving way. 10/10
The album ends with 'Shining Star' and we're back to the land of Eurovision! Presumably its a Christmas anthem. I expect to see it on Glee sometime soon - although again with the lyrical hesitancy which is part and parcel of the album. Punchy, repetitive, pop with trumpets. It will go far. 5/10
So overall not sure what this says. My highlights from the album are:
- Keep me near
- Desert Soul
- Second Chance
It's worth the album price for those four songs - especially Alabaster. But I will have to hope the rest grow on me!