Monday, January 16, 2006

A review of The Mission Bell - Delirious

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.


James Stewart said...

I've seen delirious live more times than I can count, but the as went to more and more of their concerts I found I spent most of the time in the bar and very little in the main room.

While I'd agree Mezzamorphis was their best album, I was rather disappointed with it, particularly when a few of the songs were really good live. The fuss that ensued when BBC radio wouldn't play the rather lacklustre single recordings was a step too far, and I think I gave up on them having any mainstream success during that incident.

It's always seemed to me like they've suffered the two fates that beset too many artists who are Christians. By being openly part of the 'christian' scene, they were quickly accepted by many people without much in the way of critical appraisal. Because the material they released stood apart from most of their contemporaries in that scene, they got rave reviews, even though it wasn't as good as many of us thought it could be,

And they never were able to decide whether their concerts were worship events or performances, with the result that many Christians thought they were selling out, and most non-Christian listeners felt shut out. Which was a shame because there were a few songs that were nearly very good indeed.

James Stewart said...

For "but the as went to more and more" read "but as I went to more and more"