"Our songs have no meaning if you're not listening." So begins Give Us Barabbas, the newest album from The Blamed. Well, I've been listening, and I've yet to find much meaning in any of the brief songs on this disc. Despite this, The Blamed's unique version of punk carries the album and makes it a fun listen.

The lyrics on this album are pretty vague -- the brief length of each song doesn't allow much room for illumination -- but this doesn't seem to concern the band. They practically dare you to figure out what they're about, which gets annoying after awhile.

One particularly mystifying lyric says, "Love is what you feel and not what you know." What? What kind of message is this Christian band trying to get across? Without getting too philosophical or theological, I'm pretty sure God is more concerned with our knowledge of love -- for Him, and for others -- than with our feelings on the subject.

On the brighter side, Give Us Barabbas is littered with musical surprises that are a delight to jaded ears: unexpected chord progressions, sudden changes in rhythm and the use of clarinet (no, really).

For example, the slow moody strings that end Prayer for the Dead balance the hyperbolic drama of the lyrics. (I want to see the fire consume you. I want to see you drenched in blood). Another surprise is the Devo-ish You Not Me, the first half of which is sung in monotone against a syncopated rhythm before shifting gears at just the right moment.

1200 Stares is the height of the strange dichotomy between the silliness of the lyrics and the beauty of the music on Give Us Barabbas. The song begins, We won't stop what we start as long as it stops before they start in. Um, OK. The verse continues until, without warning, an onslaught of dissonant madness takes over: a screeching clarinet, a frenzy of guitars, screaming -- it's beautiful. And then, just as suddenly, things pick up where they left off.

So, how do you like your punk? Do you like it straight up, form before substance? Or do you like it to go a little deeper? With Give Us Barabbas, you get a little of both worlds, even if the depth is in the sound and not so much in the message. But it's a worthwhile ride. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the surprises The Blamed offers on Give Us Barabbas.