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Looked Upon

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
Looked Upon
Sounds like … worship music from the early days of Vineyard, with arrangements and melodies that favor simplicity, acoustics, and an indie spirit.At a glance … far from your typical corporate praise album, Looked Upon and its indie-styled hymnody are best suited for times of prayer and personal devotions.Track ListingWhat MysteryGod over AllNail My GloryJesus, Be My All (How Sad Our State)Thy Way, Not MineRansomedWhat a SaviorMy Lord, I Did Not Choose YouBehold Our GodWhen I SurveyAll I Have Is Christ

Much like Passion has Chris Tomlin and others to lead worship at its mega gatherings, the New Attitude conference has the Na Band, a group of likeminded worship leaders and musicians whose aim is to set "humble orthodoxy" to music. According to the conference website, humble orthodoxy is simply a commitment to believe, live, and represent biblical truth with humility.

How does that translate in a musical setting? If Looked Upon, the Na Band's latest album, is any indication, humble orthodoxy sounds like time-worn hymnody set to the free-flowing spirit of indie rock, plus some of the simplicity that characterized early Vineyard albums.

Save for a few exceptions, almost every song here is a repurposed hymn, some of them dating back as far as 1707. Of course, there's no way a 300-year-old gem like Isaac Watts' "How Sad Our State by Nature Is" would stand a chance at a conference aimed at young people, so lead singer Devon Kauflin (son of Sovereign Grace Ministries founder Bob Kauflin) added new lyrics, changed up the melody, and rechristened it as "Jesus, Be My All." The result is a militant alt-pop dirge—not exactly a congregational winner, but infinitely worshipful and cool to listen to.

That's the case with the majority of Looked Upon. Rather than going the populist route of mainstream modern worship, Kauflin and producer Jeremy White arranged and performed the songs with limited corporate quotient. New choruses and altered melodies abound, but they don't do much in terms of bringing these hymns to life—there's a marked shoegazer quality throughout.

The Na Band's idea was perhaps to not trivialize the depth and gravity of the original ancient poetry—some modernized hymns, after all, tend to place the same amount of emphasis on fashion and substance. But when one sings, "Love so amazing, so divine/Demands my soul, my life, my all" (from "When I Survey"), there needs to be a certain tone of amazement in the melody, rather than the languor that some of these melodies let on.

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