The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Like many Herald-Leader readers, I have read my fellow Life + Faith columnist Paul Prather’s recent columns about the movie Fireproof with great interest, but probably from a different perspective.
As an arts and entertainment journalist and critic who covers faith-based pop culture, I know that criticizing art made in the name of Christianity or other faiths can be quite a minefield. If you say something negative, no matter how constructively, some people invariably take it as an insult not only to their taste but to their faith.
That can make it a little bit hard to do what Paul was doing, essentially writing an aspirational column asking: Shouldn’t we as people of faith strive to create art that doesn’t just advocate our point of view but stands on its own as great art?
Many, many times, Christianity and great art have come together. Just think of the music of J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and other composers who wrote religious works, or some of the great visual art in works by Michelangelo that represent biblical images. That has not stopped happening.
In modern music, artists including Phil Keaggy and Switchfoot make faith-based rock ’n’ roll that can stand with anything on the mainstream charts. Whitney Houston’s death has reminded us of the great influence that gospel music holds in numerous forms of modern music.
Christian pop is a genre that has long labored under the criticism that it is not as good as mainstream music. I know that has made some people angry and resentful — and it hasn’t always been the most constructive or best-informed criticism — but I think it has helped to strengthen a genre that wanted to prove not only that Christians can make modern music about faith but that they can do it really well.
With one-third of the world’s population identifying as Christians, it stands to reason that there will be great artists among them.
But the fast lane to mediocrity is when we assume that good intentions automatically equal good results.
Jan27Filed under: album review, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Athens, CompassionArt, Fireproof, Georgia, Julian Drive, Kirk Cameron, Michael W. Smith, My Coming Day, review, Revive, Rupp Arena, Sherwood Baptist Church, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Love Dare, Trafalgar Street
Review: Julian Drive, My Coming Day
Athens, Ga. It’s a town that has an almost mythic reputation in rock ‘n’ roll as the birthplace of Hall of Famers R.E.M. and The B-52′s and current acts such as Of Montreal and Widespread Panic. So when Julian Drive’s CD rolled in with a press kit mentioning Athens was home for the band, it was attention grabbing. Is this group going to carry the Athenian spirit into Christian rock?
Well, here’s the good news about Julian Drive’s debut, My Coming Day: the youth group band had longtime Christian music producer Lynn Nichols, who’s guided Phil Keaggy and Switchfoot, to name a few, on board for this project, and he brings out a sleek, professional sound in Julian Drive. No doubt, these guys are ready for radio.
Maybe too ready.
The problem is Julian Drive sounds too much like what you hear on radio already. As the opening track, From Your Hands, plays, its way to easy to recall Tenth Avenue North’s Love is Here, in both the tune’s mood and use of crucifixion imagery. And that continues through most of the album, with songs easily recalling themes and moods we’ve heard before. It isn’t until track seven, Unplug, that we seem to get something individual out of the group, and there’s an inspired cover in Hoobastank’s The Reason.
What Julian Drive needs next time around is something of its own to say. Part of the magic of those Athens bands was they truly broke molds and offered music unlike anything music fans were hearing at the times they debuted. Julian Drive probably does not have that in them. After all, these guys were born out of a rural Clarke County church, not the eclectic downtown clubs near the University of Georgia. But any substantial act needs its own voice, and that is something Julian Drive still seems to be looking for.
Coming our way: The big Michael W. Smith-Steven Curtis Chapman United Tour is back on the road and will hit Lexington at 7 p.m. April 26. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday for the show.
More Aussies: Newboys and Rebecca St. James have already demonstrated the power of Australian artists to become big stars in American Christian rock. The editors at Billboard magazine have looked into the crystal ball and seen Revive may be the next band from down under to top our charts. The band’s first album, Chorus of the Saints, drops March 10, and they’ll be hitting the road with Third Day and Brandon Heath. Revive is signed to Third Day’s Consuming Fire Productions. If you’d like a preview of what the new disc may hold, Revive’s 2007 release, Trafalgar Street, is available on CD and at Napster and iTunes.
Home movies: Fireproof, the latest hit from Alex and Stephen Kendrick and Albany, Ga.’s — we have a little Georgia theme today, don’t we — Sherwood Baptist Church is out on DVD today. In the film, Kirk Cameron plays a firefighter whose marriage is crumbling and he is challenged to try “The Love Dare,” which you may also recognize as the title of a best-selling book from last fall.
New music: One of the big new releases today is CompassionArt, a set of 15 new songs by Christian music stars including Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman and others. All the proceeds from the disc, organized by Delirious frontman Martin Smith, go to fighting poverty around the world. We had a chance to talk to Smith last week and will post that interview sometime in the next week.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich