- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Sep
Remember back in 2001, a young Christian boy band (more resembling Hanson than Backstreet Boys) called Phat Chance? You don't? That's okay with the members of Stereo Motion. They are essentially the same band (minus one member): vocalist/guitarist Bryan Nance, bassist Justin Morgan, drummer Dallas Morgan, and guitarist Brent Lain. But their sound has been completely transformed with the new band's self-titled debut.
Producer Jason Burkum knows a thing or two about rock 'n' roll, having played with Believable Picnic and produced for Audio Adrenaline and The Swift. He's well matched with Stereo Motion's desire to write classic rock with modern rock verve, following in the footsteps of neo-classic rock bands like The Elms and The Vines. Additionally, this young foursome aims to write songs that will endure, not just focusing on the fads and trends of the day. I'm thrilled when an artist strives to not simply rehash ideas from Scripture and worship (as many Christian artists have done for decades), but rather expresses faith in fresh, relevant, and personal ways.
Stereo Motion generally succeeds in these lofty ambitions. Their energetic style is indeed reminiscent of the timeless rock of The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and especially The Rolling Stones as performed with modern day instruments and recording techniques. While the lyrics aren't necessarily profound or poetic, they offer a fresh perspective and avoid trite expressions. The album opens with a fun plea for the Lord to "Steal the Show" and the spotlight from the band. "The Revolution Times" echoes Stereo Motion's desire to reject fads in favor of timeless sound and truth: "Just do your thing and do it good/'Cause the people never do what they should/Don't listen to their spells 'cause their fashions are from hell/And they want you to fall in there with me tonight."
There is some excellent guitar rock on this album. The first single, "Rise," offers a lean and mean guitar riff to carry the message of the importance of spending quiet time with God. "Still a Little Shaken Up," a rowdy rocker about the power of intimately experiencing God's presence, is reminiscent of T. Rex, The Black Crowes, and The Smashing Pumpkins. My favorite is "Tip of My Tongue," an aggressive and bluesy rock anthem that sounds like a mix of The Elms and The Rolling Stones. Based on the book of James, it reminds us that the tongue is a powerful thing in its ability to bless or curse: "With the tip of my tongue, I open the gates of love/With the tip of my tongue, the doors open up."
A number of tracks are memorable in the way they stray from the typical guitar rock sound so prominent on the rest of the disc. "Ghost" is especially effective, a dark, soaring rocker that hearkens back to the Psalms by conveying doubt and uncertainty during a spiritual drought: "I used to believe without seeing/But they burnt down the bridges from my heart to yours." On "I'm Here to Save You," Stereo Motion recreates the same maudlin acoustic rock sound from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" in an effort to graphically convey the reality of Christ's death for us. The guys use falsetto vocals reminiscent of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, or The Bee Gees in "Slow Dance the Day Away," a floaty, dreamy tune about casting aside worries and enjoying the present day that God has granted.
Stereo Motion's debut wouldn't work if the band didn't pull if off so convincingly. It's great to hear some honest to goodness guitar solos on a modern rock album, the band jells together nicely, and Burkum does an admirable job tying it all together with production. If anything, Nance's rock vocals sometimes border on parody, as if someone were trying too hard to impersonate Mick Jagger or Roger Daltrey. But most essential to the album's success is the writing. Unlike many other current rock efforts vying for attention in the Christian market, Stereo Motion's songs don't just sound good; a good handful of them are actually catchy and memorable. The words are arguably a little more meaningful than the similar sounding