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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Lifegiver

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 May
  • COMMENTS
Lifegiver
Sounds like … a funky pop/rock base similar to All Together Separate, Maroon 5, and Lenny Kravitz, with flashes of hard rock like Kutless and Building 429, and adult contemporary like Nouveaux and 4HimAt a glance … the band is certainly talented and Lifegiver has its moments, but the overall album simply doesn't live up to the hype surrounding Hyper Static UnionTrack Listing Lifegiver Overhead Praying for Sunny Days Chariot Right Where You Want Me Can't Leave It Alone Free Me Child of His Grace Good Fight Now That It's Over* In Remembrance of Him

In a year introducing well over fifty new artists in Christian music, it sure doesn't hurt to have both Third Day and Michael W. Smith backing your debut. Hyper Static Union is the first act to work with 3D's Consuming Fire Productions and to sign with RKT Music, the new imprint under Smitty's Rocketown Records. Additionally, they've won the grand prize at the Gospel Music Association's annual Music in the Rockies showcase, and toured with Third Day. Impressive rsum.

Originally from Camas, Washington, HSU started out as a garage band and spent the last eight years on the Pacific Northwest circuit. Their name is a play on "hypostatic union," the theological term describing Christ's existence as both God and man. Claiming influences that range from Lenny Kravitz and Steely Dan to James Brown and Led Zeppelin, HSU is passionate about letting artistic excellence be their way of letting their light shine. But is the band as "totally original" as co-producer (and Third Day frontman) Mac Powell claims?

Lifegiver certainly has its moments, beginning with the terrific title track of thankfulness and praise, a wild and funky blues rock number played with precision and hard edge that recalls Kravitz and Extreme. Loud guitars also punctuate the funk of "Right Where You Want Me," which plays like a mix of '80s pop and metal, like Tree63 or Asia crossed with White Heart or Living Colour. And as the title suggests, it's a look at God's grace in our lives: "All of my words were profane/The only time I called Your name I took it in vain/Yet you heard my cry, even though I lived a lie." Then there's the jubilant funk of "Can't Leave It Alone," written like a heavy rock update on "This Little Gospel Light of Mine"—simple as it is, the jazzy harmonies and buoyant pop-gospel groove make it absolutely irresistible.

If only the entire album held up as well. Is it just me, or does the CHR single "Overhead" sound like the same sort of generic pop metal that bands like Kutless and Thousand Foot Krutch have been making for years? At least it's favored by some insightful lyrics about putting our selfish desires aside and wrestling with the cost of discipleship. "Chariot," meanwhile, struggles with the reverse. Musically, it echoes the driving jazz-rock sound of early Police ("Message in a Bottle"), but the lyrics about the Second Coming of Jesus are overly familiar and routine. Plus, is it really all that inventive to make brief reference to a certain classic spiritual in the middle of a song called "Chariot?"

Though I usually champion eclecticism, it could be that HSU is a little too diverse—or else diverse in the wrong way. A pop ballad like "Free Me" sounds dull next to the aforementioned funk and rock tracks, recalling Andy Chrisman singing with 4Him about the freedom found in a relationship with Christ. The bouncy adult contemporary pop single "Praying for Sunny Days" features a falsetto hook by lead singer Shawn Lewis that is somehow both impressive and annoying. While the song is still catchy and well played (with great guitar by Shawn Albrechtson), a lyric about praying for sunny weather to replace rainy skies seems more befitting of Avalon or Point of Grace. Likewise, the simplistic hymn-like ballad "Child of His Grace" might make an appropriate testimonial for a softer Christian band, but seems off kilter in context with this album's heavier material.

Not too ago, All Together Separate handled the blend of rock, funk, and jazz much better than this, and today, Robert Randolph and the Family Band is a shining example of a similar blend—plus gospel—performed with incredible skill and energy. Thus, much like Building 429, it's frustrating to listen to Hyper Static Union demonstrate their creative potential so well on one track, only to revert to more predictable banality for the next—and nothing here really comes close to their electrifying live rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" performed with Smitty at Gospel Music Week 2006.

Some people believe that three or four great songs are enough to make a great album. If you feel that way, this one will do. But others will find that the album's best moments are undermined by segments of tedium, which makes Lifegiver a hit and miss effort from a band capable of better.

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