- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Oct
At long last, after a half decade recording hiatus, Sixpence None the Richer returns with their fourth full-length recording, Divine Discontent, a record birthed from the band's tumultuous travels since blasting to international superstardom at the turn of the century. Sixpence was far from an overnight success, as the core original duo of Leigh Bingham (Nash) and Matt Slocum has weathered many storms since their inception in 1993. They supported their initial trio of recordings,
Come 1997, the group buried past label misfortunes by signing with genre-bending rocker/artistic entrepreneur Steve Taylor's Squint Entertainment. Not only did Taylor's vision include scoring the band wider distribution, but it also meant taking their message to the mainstream, and doing so with the utmost level of integrity and quality. Slowly but surely, Sixpence's eponymously titled Squint debut built up a buzz as loyal fans requested the album's lead single "Kiss Me" in various radio and video formats. By the summer of 1998, the group found themselves with a date on the immensely popular Lilith Fair Tour (headlined by Sarah McLachlan) and then hit the road with the tour full time the following summer. Also in 1999, Sixpence recorded a cover of The La's "There She Goes" (a single later tacked on to
By the end of that year, group members were due for some much-needed rest and relaxation before taking a second stab at success. However, the break lasted longer than they hoped, as they experienced another record company disaster. By early 2001, Steve Taylor parted ways with the label he founded, leaving Sixpence's fate in the hands of the prospective owners, attorneys, and accountants. It wasn't until 2002 that the band was picked up by Reprise Records, and although group members were leery of yet another recording contract, they liked the label's desire for Sixpence to once again thrive as a defining force in the modern mainstream music scene.
Chances are that's exactly what the group will become based on their latest effort,
Another treat that's easy to relate to is this project's curveball cover "Don't Dream It's Over," a song made famous by Crowded House. Added at the eleventh hour of recording sessions, Sixpence adapts the late-80s classic penned by Neil Finn to Nash's delicate vocal tones, though their similar stylistic arrangement confirms the tune's timelessness. Another famous songwriter outside the Sixpence camp who appears on
However, the best is yet to come in terms of the record's lyrical dichotomy, with the topically varied trio "Dizzy," "Paralyzed," and "Still Burning" serving as primary focal points. Soaked in strings, revolving around a piano, and sprinkled with a flute, "Dizzy" traces the personalities of various Biblical characters, chronicling their strengths and weaknesses while pointing out how we can learn from their endeavors. Included in the analysis are David's succumbing to lustful passion followed by his renewal, Peter's denial of Christ and his endless stream of guilt, and Thomas' ability to doubt, despite having witnessed the risen Lord.
Although thematically poles apart, "Paralyzed" is crafted with corresponding poignancy and overflowing sentiment. "[The song] was written in Germany after Leigh and I had an interview with a journalist whose best friend, another journalist, had just been killed while covering the war atrocities in Kosovo in 1999," explains Slocum. "The death was especially tragic because the wife of the journalist's friend was expecting a baby soon and he was the one that had to break the news to her." The graphic lyrical observation of "blood is shed upon the ground" and the heartbreaking description of the friend who "packed his books up, left the office, went to tell his wife the news" over a series of sinister guitar snarls are enough to give listeners a knot in their stomach. "Still Burning" doesn't necessarily attempt to provide resolution to that tragic situation, but can at least offer a somewhat calming effect for those experiencing a season of suffering. Instead of dwelling on hardship, Slocum suggests "suffering is a gift and a catalyst to help one's transition to a better state of living." Nash sounds emphatic amidst the atmospheric strings, docile keyboard playing, and soaring melody, musically illustrating "the image of the heart reaching out like a hand."