- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Looking at the cover of Phat Chance's debut release, one could easily label the group a boy band. The immediate stereotype they'd fall into is that of a group that's been manufactured by a record label more for the marketability of their looks than their musical ability. But unlike many of the so-called boy bands, Phat Chance began in 1995 when third-grader Dallas Morgan, his fifth-grade brother Justin Morgan, and classmate Bryan Nance began writing music every day after school. Bryan and Dallas went to work on guitar and drums respectively, while Justin sought to hone his bass playing skills. As the trio excelled in their talent, friends Brent Lain and Brandon Johnson joined the team to add additional guitar and vocal elements. They decided on the name Phat Chance, with a hidden meaning in mind—"Phat" is actually an acronym for "Praising Him at All Times."
The youngsters' serious faith focus, as well as continued band practice, caught the ear of Justin and Dallas' father, Roy Morgan, a prominent concert promoter. Roy saw his sons' and their friends' growing passion for the band and soon booked them for a handful of festivals and youth rallies. After proving to their father they could connect with any youthful crowd they played in front of, he was able to get them a pre-show spot on NewSong's Summer Jam 2000 tour. They landed spot dates with the likes of Newsboys, Rebecca St. James, Big Tent Revival, and Audio Adrenaline. In fact, Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline liked the guys so much he signed them to the label he co-owns, Flicker Records.
Phat Chance's Flicker debut features the group playing all their own instruments, creating a pop/rock sound like that of Squirt and Jake. Although they also bear similarity to mainstream acts BBMAK and Hanson, Phat Chance doesn't feature as soulful a sound. Unfortunately, the group's first three songs are all cut from the same mold and stick out as the least desirable portion of the record. "Sunshine Daylight" kicks off the set with a brimming sense of contrived cheerfulness—it's almost so happy-go-lucky it could be featured in a modern version of The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family. "Just a Little More" gives off a "shake your head from side to side" vibe, while the simple lyrics seem like they were written in five minutes. The disc's title cut makes for a predictable radio single and has a chorus that's more redundant than necessary.
Thank goodness the album improves with the more serious ballad "It All Comes Down." Although it's also extremely radio friendly, the words have a bit more substance and the instrumentation doesn't sound overly glossy. Brandon sings "Lord, you walked on water/ And you parted the sea/ Now you're moving the mountains/ And they're under my feet/ You amaze me with everything you do/ It all comes down to you." The harmony-driven "Hide Their Eyes" and the acoustic closer, "The One," also provide deeper glimpses into the band members' souls. "Hide Their Eyes" addresses the fact that people often put bands on a pedestal, but should instead see them as everyday people who experience common struggles. "The One" features vocal enhancement from the sugary sweet Dawn Chere, while the words speak of the group's desire to stand up for sexual abstinence.
I admit I don't find a great deal of artistic merit or personal interest in the teen pop genre, but Phat Chance's style certainly is valid to its fan base. However, I do have a bit more of respect for Phat Chance than I would O-Town or Eden's Crush, given the fact that they play their own instruments and write their own songs. They certainly aim to please with this debut, while offering a hearty message that will encourage believers and non-believers alike.