- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
To what extent can a band sound like another band and still be regarded as something new and original? That's the ultimate question regarding steve, a four-man band from Bristol, England, consisting of lead singer and guitarist Neil Wilson, drummer Nathan Evans, lead guitarist Lee Slater, and a guy simply named "Rees" responsible for bass, keyboards, and sample loops.
If you're familiar with Christian music in the slightest, you'll pop steve's international debut, Falling Down, into your CD player and immediately categorize them as a Delirious copycat. That's not an unreasonable comparison, especially considering the band gained attention in the UK by opening for Delirious on the Glo tour. However, if you listen to Falling Down a little more closely, you'll soon hear a subtle difference between the bands. Where Delirious incorporates the anthemic rock qualities of U2 into their songwriting, steve's music has an even more unmistakably British sound that recalls the raw energy and catchy melodies of Oasis. Listen closer still and you'll be treated to some seriously well-written worship songs produced with more creativity than you'd expect from a Christian music recording.
Falling Down isn't quite as glossy as your usual modern worship recording, but producer Sam Gibson and the band sprinkle the raw modern-rock sound with lots of hooks that include edgy guitar sounds, slick drum programming and sample loops, and classic Casio keyboard effects. This is a band not afraid to experiment a little with its sound, as well as throw a few curve balls, such as changing the key or altering the feel of a song 2/3 of the way through it. The band also displays superb musicianship—the drums rock, guitar solos abound, and be sure to check out the terrific bass work at the end of "Divine Design."
I found steve's songs memorable long after the CD was done. The title track is a strong mid-tempo rock song with an infectous chorus. I found myself singing along the first time I heard the beautiful melancholy of "I'm Here," a song written from the pain of losing a loved one. Both "Hunger" and "Hey Now" are aggressive and up-tempo rockers, and "Mellow" features a hypnotic drone to it that's part Middle Eastern and part brooding worship (similar to Delirious' classic "Obsession"). The song "Majesty" was even inspired by James Bond-styled theme music, using its dark strings to tell of a different kind of hero who saved us long ago.
steve plays well and their songs are very catchy, but they also approach their mostly worshipful lyric content in a less conventional manner. Take the album's opening track "Zealous Core" as an example. The song's inspired by Philippians 3:12-15, in which Paul talks about pressing on toward the goal of enternal life. Countless Christian artists have released songs inspired by this passage, most of them simply titled "Press On," but few if any artists have expressed it this way—"I'm still in the race / taking the pace from my zealous core / I'm still on my feet / taking the heat from my zealous core." Granted, the phrase "zealous core" doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, but when you think about what it means (a heart that's completely passionate about running the race set before us by the Lord), it's actually a rather apt term.
Such is the language of steve, a band that doesn't succumb to formulaic worship sentiments or Christian terminology non-believers can't understand. This is a band that can write a love song for the Lord that simply says he's "Fine," or sum up their desire to serve his will by wanting to see him "Smile." Simplistic? Perhaps, but consider that steve, like Delirious and World Wide Message Tribe, is reaching a whole new audience through schools and clubs because they can publicly share what Christianity has done in their lives—they're just not allowed to proclaim Christianity as the one true faith. While some here in America may call that compromising one's faith, I see bands like steve making worship accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike, planting seeds where many sowers have feared or not been allowed to tread.
There's no question steve sounds a little too much like Delirious at times, but they nevertheless copy this great band very well. Earlier this year, a worship album called