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A Moment of Imperfect Clarity

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Sep
A Moment of Imperfect Clarity
Sounds like … an even more pronounced shift from the rapcore that characterized Spoken's early career, more clearly embracing hard- edged emo-rock like Further Seems Forever, Finch, The Used, Anberlin, and The Juliana Theory.At a glance … with passionate and clear lyrical expressions of faith, this is a solid emo-flavored hard rock entry from the long absent Spoken.

If you listen to A Moment of Imperfect Clarity, it may not be readily apparent that it's the latest release from Spoken—unless, of course, you're staring directly at the album cover. The Arkansas band started by lead vocalist Matt Baird and guitarist Jef Cunningham debuted in 1998 on Metro One as a Christian rapcore band similar to Rage Against the Machine or early P.O.D., earning them tours with Pax 217 and Living Sacrifice over the years. In time, however, they've come to embrace more melodic (though still heavy) rock, beginning with their last studio effort, 2000's Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell. Now with the Tooth & Nail family, Spoken makes a triumphant emotionally charged return on A Moment of Imperfect Clarity.

The album is produced by GGGarth, an appropriate match best known for his work with Chevelle and Rage Against the Machine. There's no longer a trace of the rapcore found on the band's earlier albums. Instead, Spoken has clearly embraced the emo-flavored hard rock of bands such as Further Seems Forever, The Used, Finch, and The Juliana Theory with catchy guitar riffs, a thick wall of rhythmic sound, and passionately fueled melodies.

Spoken has long believed in putting ministry ahead of musicianship. Such bands typically let their art suffer as a result, but not so here. The sound is solid, and while most of the lyrics are clear expressions of faith, they're written without resorting to the obvious or the pretentious. Beginning the album with "Across These Waters," Baird sings a powerful song of rededication to the Lord reminiscent of Creed: "Come on and take me by the hand and show me/Take me to a place where I can see/Where there's no darkness to surround me/A place where time stands still for you and me."

"In Dreams (I Sometimes See You)" is a reaction to times of doubt, while "A Breath in the Fog" serves as a prayer to God for strength and support: "My dreams may not come true/I may fall on my face/Still my hope is in you/All I need is the strength to make it through." The extremely melodic closer "How Long" is almost worshipful in a passionate look at God glorified by creation, with Baird confidently proclaiming, "I know you are here, I feel you on the aire/How long will the heavens cry out to you?/How long will creation speak your name?"

Some of the songs even take on poetic role-playing to communicate their message. "Falling Further" is written from the point-of-view of the disciple Thomas, lamenting Christ's departure from this earth and reinforcing his conviction to faithfully serve the Lord. It's nicely complimented by "Sleep Well Tonight," a love letter to us from Jesus, who promises to return soon: "I can see the city skyline/I'm not that far away/I pull into the driveway and I see you." Then there's "Remembered," also written from Christ's perspective as an intense lament over the ease with which we embrace sin over his love: "There was a time you would speak to me when you needed something from me/Now it's your turn to crucify me/Your flesh seems stronger than your love for me/Your flesh cries out only for a moment."

A Moment of Imperfect Clarity could benefit from a little more variation in the songs, though it does a lot better than other similar bands in the genre. A laid-back guitar pop groove underlies the romantic "A World Away," no doubt written for Baird's wife, though it does get considerably louder before the song's end. In contrast, "Learning to Forget" is a hard emo-rock tour de force, almost like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" because of the way it's stylistically segmented. The only modern rock fans likely to be disappointed here are those who favored Spoken's earlier rapcore sound. Those who like the emo-charged heavy rock of the past few years, however, are bound to be pleasantly impressed with how well Spoken pulls it off on A Moment of Imperfect Clarity.