- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2006 1 Jun
- In Gym Class in High School
- After the Garden
- White Dove
- Following the Blind
- Farmer's Wife
- Santa Barbara
- Dance Away the City
- House of Mirrors
- Just a Kid
- Trying to Get This Right
- All the Wrong Reasons
- New Beginning
- Early in the Morning
I keep a short list of artists in my head that I believe called it quits too soon. The Normals is one example, a band that started out pleasantly enough in 1998, but quickly showed signs of developing into smart and anthemic rock in step with U2, Jars of Clay, Coldplay, and Switchfoot. Unfortunately, after just three albums, the group retired in 2002 to pursue other endeavors, both personal and professional.
Front man Andrew Osenga carries the band's legacy, independently recording his solo debut
Four of the album's tracks are brief mini-songs—"chapter" introductions and illustrations that add color while reflecting the album's recurring themes of regret and redemption. There's the desire for reassurance and support ("In Gym Class in High School"), the longing for order and peace ("Farmer's Wife"), remorse over mistakes of youth ("Just a Kid"), and confessions of sinful hypocrisy ("All the Wrong Reasons"). Though the album is called simply
"After the Garden" kicks things off with a killer guitar riff worthy of Switchfoot and The Normals; the song notes how the Fall marked the beginning of humanity's gravitation toward wrong instead of right. Similar to the dynamic pop/rock of U2 and Delirious, "White Dove" tries to grasp the simplicity of the gospel message—God is not only about justice, but also mercy and love. The equally catchy "Following the Blind" laments innocence lost and misplaced trust, while the fast-paced roots rock of "Santa Barbara" employs poetic storytelling about regret and redemption. After that, "Dance Away the City" provides a sweet Brit-pop styled love song for newlyweds about overcoming trials with love.
The latter half starts with "Marilyn," a softer alt-folk tune that mourns a reckless love from the past. "House of Mirrors," offering change through God's Word, features a more mature sound refined by guitar and dulcimer. And "Trying to Get This Right" contrasts with "Dance Away the City" as a song of contrition and reconciliation in a relationship.
It's not entirely clear how much of this is autobiographical and how much is storytelling that serves the messages of regret and redemption, but that's generally beside the point. This is a marvelous effort for those who simply enjoy intelligent songwriting and a skillful variety of pop, rock, and folk. It's not often enough in Christian music that someone balances it all so well. Maybe The Normals were just ahead of their time, and maybe the front man needed such experience to get to this point, but