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You Can't Trust a Ladder

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jun
You Can't Trust a Ladder
Sounds like … Delirious if they became as avant-garde as Radiohead, with additional comparisons to Copeland, The Killers, Anberlin, Muse, Sunny Day Real Estate, House of Heroes, and LovedrugAt a glance … this is a terrific sounding indie rock album, but many will be frustrated trying to figure out what The Myriad is trying to communicate through the often darkly themed songsTrack ListingStretched OverWhen Fire Falls10,000 x 10,000The Last TimePerfect ObligationTetheredGodray(interlude)A New LanguageNothing Is SafeWe Will Be Disappointed Together

2005 is proving a great year for modern/indie rock in Christian music; here's yet another relevant, timely sounding album. The origins of The Myriad can be traced back to the turn of the century, when Jeremy Edwardson (vocals, guitar), Jonathan Young (guitar), and John Roger Schofield (bass) played together in a number of bands around California. In 2001, they decided to pursue a new direction by moving to Seattle. There they teamed with Steven Tracy (guitar, keyboards) and Scott Davis (drums) to form the band that exists today. Recording independently and touring with the likes of Blindside and Further Seems Forever, they quickly made a name for themselves in the Northwestern U.S. and at the 2004 Cornerstone Festival, signing with Floodgate soon after to release You Can't Trust a Ladder.

Musically, this national debut is kicking, thanks in no small part to producer Aaron Marsh (Copeland). Both melodic and alternative, the band resembles Delirious if they embraced more of their avant-garde indie side like Radiohead, Lovedrug, or Anberlin—"Nothing Is Safe" in particular reveals the chilling and dissonant style of OK Computer or Hail to the Thief. Also, on tracks like "Perfect Obligation" and "Tethered," The Myriad takes on some of the '80s alternative rock revival that bands like The Killers and Franz Ferdinand are spearheading.

Indeed, the band sounds terrific, sure to appeal to fans of the growing indie rock scene. But as with many other indie rock bands, it's not always clear where The Myriad is coming from. The most obvious reference to their Christian beliefs is found in the liner notes—a thank-you to "the risen Christ." The opening tracks focus on pain and "kicked-in ribs." Who is this "she" that they're referring to in "Stretched Over?" Is it a metaphorical beating in "When Fire Falls," or a reference to the scourging in The Passion of The Christ?

Have patience, as the messages become somewhat clearer as the album progresses. It's not obvious who the song is directed at or what the title refers to, but "10,000 x 10,000" alludes to some sort of spiritual surrender: "Slip away with me/Close your eyes, you're free/Dreams are often lost, but heaven's not far off/And I've given all I have/And I've given my whole soul/I'm ready to go." And the band makes reference to their name in "The Last Time," suggesting it has something to do with being a light unto the world: "How can we risk not knowing the end of night?/In the hour of longing, we will spark a myriad of lights."

Much of You Can't Trust a Ladder seems to focus on themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the struggle to hear God's voice. "Perfect Obligation" shares the mindset of one attempting to make a life changing decision: "Right now I'm looking for the right out/A little of the white out of grace to wash me clean." Similarly, "Tethered" wrestles with guilt over old sinful ways, singing in the chorus, "Just one look, you pardon away the nature inside of me." There's fear of falling away in "Godray," but apparent reconciliation in "A New Language." The worry carries into the oddly prayerful closing track "We Will Be Disappointed Together," which seems to be saying that God accepts us as we are with uncertainty: "I'm waiting with my arms up high/My eyes pulled tight to lines of worry/That you won't meet me here tonight."

There's plenty to love in The Myriad's strong indie rock sound, but many will be frustrated with the abstract lyrics, which according to Tracy was intentionally done to allow "people to think about and plug in their own experiences." Consequently, this album is more emotive, apparently favoring feelings over teachings and ideas—it's only slightly more vague than Lovedrug's Pretend You're Alive or House of Heroes' recent self-titled effort. Maybe what's most troubling is that so much of You Can't Trust a Ladder is focused on darkness and worry without offering much of an answer. Not that a Christian artist must always offer a sunny perspective, but contrast this album with the broader and more hopeful scope of something like Mae's The Everglow. The Myriad is nonetheless a great band, with enough here to confirm where they're generally coming from spiritually—and the people at Floodgate Records can be trusted even if a ladder can't.

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