What first attracted me to Delirious nearly ten years ago was that they first took a new approach to worship music – wedding an early U2 vibe with lyrics designed for a worship setting. Their first four Cutting Edge tapes were a wonderful introduction to a new era in worship music that is still being explored today. Then, as a band, they decided to also create albums aimed at the mainstream and made a wonderful album with Mezzamorphis, perhaps their all-time best album. They might have topped it with their worship-oriented follow-up, Glo. They were seriously on a roll.
Then two things happened at about the same time – I don’t know if they’re related or not. They got drawn in to the CCM machine and their music lost much of its freshness. Touch and World Service, while they both have their moments, didn’t have the kind of impact that any of their earlier albums did. They followed that up with an album of old Delirious worship songs recorded with the Hillsongs worship community (following the CCM industry standard of re-releasing any popular worship song more times than you can possibly imagine.) At this point I had almost given up on them. This latest album seemed a lot more like product than art and I had about had it.
However, I have a soft spot in my heart for certain bands and will allow them to disappoint me more times than I really ought to and so, even though I thought this might be a bad purchase, I bought The Mission Bell. On first listen (in the car – perhaps my best place to listen since I have a 45 minute commute each day) I thought the album showed a remarkable lack of focus, no clear vision for the musical direction the band wanted to go (with a low point in the TobyMac rap of “On Christ the Solid Rock”) and a set of lyrics that often were nothing more than religious sloganeering (“Paint the Town Red with Jesus’ Blood”).
So I was ready to give this one a final resting place on the shelf in the basement but thought it best to give it a couple of more spins – just to be sure. To my surprise I found myself actually enjoying more of the album. There are a couple of catchy parts. I like the majestic chorus to “Our God Reigns,” although the lyric, especially the verses, are somewhat heavy-handed. And the gentle beauty of the final song “I’ll See You” with perhaps the best lyric of the album is so good that it tricks me into listening to the whole album again. So I’m not ready to call it a great album (or maybe even a good album) yet but it’s not the stinker that I first thought it was.