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reviewed by Russ BreimeierCopyright Christianity Today International
Sounds like … pop-punk and garage rock bands like Green Day, Weezer, MxPx, and Jimmy Eat WorldAt a Glance … the final CD from one of Christian music's best punk-rock bands, Transparent sounds a little routine and monotonous, but it's generally a solid release
In anticipation of Hangnail's third national release, fans learned the unfortunate news that after ten years together, the Wisconsin pop-punk band would call it quits after performing at Cornerstone 2003. Lead singer and bassist Mike Middleton says it's a mutual decision by all four members, and their friendships remain intact. They're simply moving in different directions with their personal lives and their music. The strains of private life seem to be echoed in their new song, "Hiding Place," with Middleton singing, "I'm getting older, so I've been told/It's time to grow up, time to care/Time to let your passions go." Guitarist Nick Radovanovic has in fact already started playing with other bands and projects, in light of the now official end of Hangnail.
Transparent will be considered by many as Hangnail's best work yet and, for its fans, it's lamentable that there will be no follow-up. Hangnail has always been up to the challenge of being more than a mere punk-rock band, alternating their sound with some surprisingly sophisticated rock riffs. As is often the case with the genre, the songs run extremely short, with the eleven songs adding up to less than 36 minutes. That will hardly matter to those who most appreciate this style, especially when a band sounds this tight-knit.
Equally impressive is the lyrical content of Transparent, which lives up to the title and the album cover, showing a man's heart on his blazer (near his sleeve, no less). Middleton rightly notes that punk bands are rarely this poetic and overt with their faith. "The Sleeping Giant" scrutinizes Hollywood and pop culture as examples of brokenness and selfishness in our world. "Temporary" is particularly insightful in expressing the disillusionment of sin and temptation, and the fast-rocking "At Arm's Length" admits frustration over growing apart from Christ in daily living. "Surrender" is self-explanatory in its message, and the rapid-fire melodic punk song "Survey of Self" coveys confession and humility: "When I fall flat on my face I know for sure/I feel secure that You won't give up on me/I've been there countless times before/You've never failed, You never walked out on me." Both the title track and the anthemic "I Aspire" communicate an honest willingness and desire to be a true reflection of Christ's light to the world.
Punk can often be repetitive and monotonous, but not so much for Hangnail, which is probably why they've earned acclaim over the years. Their last project, Facing Changes, even included an acoustic EP, showcasing the band's relatively varied sound. That said, Transparent comes off a little routine—not so much due to the songs themselves but because Hangnail's particular sound has become less unique in the last three years, especially with the emergence of bands like Jimmy Eat World, New Found Glory, and Relient K.
But there's still enough here for the staunchest fans to appreciate. Hangnail's rock sound is solid, replete with practiced change-ups. Middleton's a fine lead singer, and the three-part harmonies blend smoothly. The lyrics are a nice balance of clear expressions of faith with original phrasing. This probably won't attract as many listeners as Relient K's Two Lefts Don't Make a Right album, but it's strong enough to endear the band with serious punk heads and make Hangnail truly missed. It just seems too soon to say goodbye to one of the best punk bands in Christian music.