- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 May
Together for ten years with three albums on Solid State Records, hardcore band Stretch Arm Strong is more committed to their music today than ever, now that all the band members have quit their day jobs in order to tour full-time. This South Carolina band has had some impressive opportunities to tour with high profile mainstream acts. In the spring of 2003, they toured with Good Charlotte and New Found Glory, and they'll tour with Rancid this fall.
Much of Stretch Arm Strong's appeal has been their musical diversity. Most hardcore bands are one-trick ponies, to the delight of their most serious fans. While Stretch Arm Strong always kept hardcore punk at its core, they've also been willing to introduce atypical elements to their sound: piano, strings, and even an occasional affinity for singing over shrieking. What's more, while most hardcore bands (Christian and mainstream) tend to brood and wail with their lyrics, Stretch Arm Strong is often more encouraging. Though not all the members are believers (lead vocalist Chris McLane and drummer John Barry are the most outspoken about their faith), the songs still point to a need for spiritual substance—á la Linkin Park. And perhaps most important of all, while many hardcore bands are often intelligible in their screaming, you can usually decipher McLane's vocals without too much effort.
For their fourth release,
Themes of spirituality have always been subtle with Stretch Arm Strong, and the same is true on
Like "Raise Your Fist," "The Calling" is essentially a call-to-action for youth, though it does seem to hint at something deeper and life-changing. The two-minute "Ignition" presents a portrait of one who has experienced the spark of a new relationship, and it's almost certainly the most spiritual song on the album: "Seeing changes in myself that I just can't believe. Experiencing life with my heart on my sleeve/Open to this brand new world, I turn my soul inside out." Closing out the album is an almost unrecognizable punk rapcore rendition of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band's "Express Yourself"—in addition to the departure in sound, the lyrics are almost completely different, save for the titular chorus.