Iris to Iris
- reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 May
- Power Of Your Name
- Singing Over Me
- You Carried Me
- Waiting To Shine
- New Season
- Grace That Is Greater
Each of us probably has a pop/rock superstar that leaves us scratching our heads—those artists that seem to be loved by so many, but leave the rest of us cold. For the life of me, I can't understand why Nickelback continues to score big, considering that the band seems to recycle the same hit over and over again. At risk of sounding like an old codger, I'll refrain from ranting about the success of Rascal Flatts, Shakira, James Blunt, and just about every American Idol winner. Millions of fans can't be wrong, I guess.
There are certainly some Christian acts that have caused me bewilderment too. I remember feeling it with Building 429 when their grunge-lite anthem "Glory Defined" started dominating the airwaves in 2004. Sure, it was catchy, but the sound was barely distinguishable from Jeremy Camp and Todd Agnew. Yet while many critics dismissed the group as a one-hit-wonder, surprise, Building 429 was crowned New Artist of the Year at the 2005 GMA Awards.
Am I just off base when it comes to this band? I tried to give Building 429's uneven mix of AC pop and pseudo-rock a chance, and while their more rocking Rise album in 2006 was a slight improvement, it still didn't leave much lasting impact.
Well, I'm happy to say that all changes with the group's third effort, Iris to Iris. Under the careful tutelage of producer Brown Bannister—a man who's revitalized the careers of artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon, and MercyMe—Building 429 has traded in its tired grunge for a mix of shimmering pop/rock tracks that not only showcase frontman Jason Roy's raspy, Geoff Moore-like vocals, but convey a greater lyrical depth as well.
From the opening buoyant pop/rock of "Power of Your Name," it's quickly apparent that things are indeed different this time around. While "Power of Your Name" has all the makings of a perfect pop song, there's nothing diluted or overly trite about the band's unabashed praise to God either. Then with an excellent musical segue the upbeat strains of "Majesty" picks right up where "Power of Your Name" leaves off, offering moodier verses accentuated by a powerful chorus that's still accessible enough for Sunday morning services.
Mixing things up musically a few songs later, "You Carried Me" is probably one of the band's most confessional moments as Roy sings about how the busyness of life doesn't often leave much time for God. Yet even in our flakiest moments as humans, Roy sings about how He "carries me." A simple truth? Certainly. But Roy sings with such conviction, you actually believe it, and the song sticks with you after repeated listens. After a few upbeat tracks, the band eventually slows the pace down considerably with the gorgeous piano ballad "Waiting to Shine," another standout moment as Roy contemplates what God might actually look like.
Unfortunately, there are still a few moments that momentarily dull the band's progress. The overly simplistic "Incredible" has guitar licks that almost sound lifted straight from U2's "Beautiful Day." While the electronic elements are certainly a nice addition, those guitars are just too distracting, and it doesn't help that Roy's voice is buried too low in the mix. And though many of the tracks demonstrate a newfound lyrical maturity for Building 429, the muddy rocker "New Season" doesn't do much for the cause with its litany of cliché s.
But these low points are quickly offset by the superior tracks. Check out the masterfully executed "Constant," which runs a good six-minutes. Unlike the bulk of the songs which are more straightforward in style and arrangement, "Constant" is more abstract and experimental—two words I wouldn't have associated with Building 429 in the past. We're not talking Radiohead or Arcade Fire here, but the band should be commended for demonstrating a more adventurous spirit.
In light of Building 429's previous efforts, songs like "Constant" truly defy expectations. Now that the band has apparently fully embraced more of a pure pop/rock sound, a grumpy critic like me can't help change her tune from skepticism to anticipation—I'm actually looking forward to what the band has up its sleeve next time around. Until then, Iris to Iris works as a bridge to the band's future, appealing to the faithful fans while gaining some new one in the process. Assuming of course that you too can abandon your preconceptions about what Building 429 is capable of.