Mark my words, or rather my wife’s words: Needtobreathe won’t stay “Christian” very long. Their last two albums were released by Word Records and Atlantic Records, both owned by Warner Music Group. So, technically the band is not solely “Christian” even now, but nonetheless the statement still holds. This is not to say that the band members won’t remain followers of Jesus Christ. It is more a commentary on CCM as a whole. It sucks. But there is hope and that hope is Needtobreathe. They told the 1,000 or so people in attendance on several occasions that they were a rock band and they proved it repeatedly. Thus, word will get out and these five guys will eventually have a following of people who don’t sit in pews and carry Bibles.
We arrived in the middle of their first song, “The Outsiders,” and they were already jamming. Two electric guitars, one bass, one set of drums, and a rocking keyboard. It wasn’t a creative mix of instruments, but great googly moogly did they mix well.
They have been a band for nearly eleven years now and it showed. They didn’t talk much, except to thank the audience. Appreciation was expressed for the attendance because as Bear Rinehart said, “We’ve played plenty of shows with eleven people.” The band’s maturity was something that might go unnoticed by a novice show attendee, but it was obvious to anyone who has seen one too many immature artists pop off about politics, spout some ridiculous joke, or just mumble about something because he or she feels that its artsy. Thankfully, none of that was on the menu. Needtobreathe simply played and played well. Their timing was spot on, maybe save one instance in a jam session. The fact that they nailed nearly every transition and tempo change was a testament to their maturity and skill as musicians because they changed pace a fair amount of times. They still had to look at the drummer for the ending blasts, but I got the idea it wasn’t so much for timing as it was that they were just communally experiencing rock music. Either way, they killed the beginning, middle, and end of every song. What more do you want of a rock group?
They covered The Beatles and Ben Harper and put them into one medley: “Better Way” and “Get Back.” The Beatles cover was a nice throwback; the Ben Harper inclusion made me smile for the next three songs. I’m always glad when artists, especially Christian, pay homage to talented artists. And let’s be honest, no one is more talented than Mr. Harper.
The most captivating song of the night, however, was, as expected, “Washed by the Water.” I wasn’t looking forward to it leading into the night because I knew it was their most famous song. It’s like John Mayer playing “Your Body is a Wonderland;” it’s cliché and gets all the irreverently annoying eighth grade girls to scream. And Christian eighth grade girls are even more irritating. All that said, as the night progressed I realized that these were musicians and a simple crowd-pleasing, generic performance of the song wouldn’t be enough. Sure enough, they saved it for last and belted it sans sound system. He sang, “Daddy was a preacher,” then half the crowd started singing along and the other half shooshed them. “No reason to get hostile with anyone,” Rinehart said as he stopped singing. “But, I can’t sing over all of you so shut up.” (jokingly, of course) And they did, for the most part. He began again. Two acoustic guitars and just Rinehart’s voice pounding out the words. Notes were strained and sometimes hard to hear in the back, but that little chapel’s roof got blown up by one man’s unamplified voice. It was soul and it was real.
By the way, Needtobreathe is a blend of Kings of Leon and Band of Horses. If you don’t believe me, buy a 12 dollar ticket to their show.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals have parted ways for now and he has started a new band that he is calling Relentless7. Ben says it is a name that he has been tossing around in his mind for a while now and has just been waiting for the chance to attach it to a group of musicians. The new album White Lies for Dark Times is due out in May on Virgin Records. The new outfit features Harper playing slide guitar and backed by guitarist Jason Mozersky, drummer Jordan Richardson and bassist Jesse Ingalls, the latter two of the Los Angeles band Oliver Future. These guys first recorded with Harper on the track “Serve Your Soul,” off of the 2006 double-disc album, Both Sides of the Gun. If you head on over to their myspace page, you can hear the album version of that song along with a rockin’ cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and a surprisingly great rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” I am thinking this might be a good change for Harper.
This is a big year for the Boss. Not only did he just win a Golden Globe for Best Original Song with his song “The Wrestler” that he wrote for the film of the same name, but he is releasing his 15th studio album later this month and is then playing the half-time show for the most viewed sporting event of the year just five days later. Which by the way, it is stinkin’ awesome that for several years in a row now they have actually chosen artists with some talent to perform the half-time show. I haven’t had the chance to preview the whole album, but the few tracks I have heard are pretty great. I mean it’s one thing for an artist to have a year like this, but to turn sixty during the same year is quite an accomplishment. He is just proving to us that he is and always will be worthy of being referred to as “The Boss.”
Here is the official video for the 2nd track off of Working on a Dream, “My Lucky Day.” Head over here to pre-order the album.
14. A.C. Newman
Get Guilty – 1/20
The front man for one of my favorite indie pop acts, The New Pornographers, A.C. Newman releases his second solo effort today. Their last several albums have each just blown me away. Newman has written some of the best pop songs of 21st century. If it weren’t for Sufjan Stevens, “Sing Me Spanish Techno” probably would’ve been my favorite track of 2005, it might still be (the jury is still out). And the more I listen to Challengers, the more I love it. This is all to say that I am excited to hear what Newman has for us yet. Now I can’t image that it will be as good without Neko and the rest of the band backing him, but it will still be good. Listen and see that I’m right.
Not much info is out right now regarding the new Morrissey album. I have this bizarre cover art and I know that the oddly titled Years of Refusal is out 2/16 via Lost Highway. And I’ve managed to scrounge up a few tracks that are all fairly enjoyable. And then most of you have probably heard “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” for it can be found streaming on several web-sites including Stereogum. Now I really like this cheerfully depressing tune upon first listen. But then the video almost ruined it for me. I mean seriously? What is up with all the cheesy parading around the room? And the tambourine catch? And why are there little dogs walking through the screen at random moments. Maybe I am being unrealistic in what I expect from Morrissey, you tell me. Regardless, I think I’ve given you plenty of reason to look forward to this album.
Wow…kind of exhausting. So if you dared to actually sample them all please share with us your favorite. Were you suprised by which one you liked the most. I know I was. I hope your ears aren’t actually bleeding, I just want you really enjoy the music.