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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2000 1 Jan

Probably the greatest joy in reviewing music is slipping a disc in the player and hearing music that surpasses all expectations, especially if there's no buzz or word of mouth about it. The converse is also true, especially if I've heard positive buzz and great recommendations, only to discover it does nothing for me. I start getting paranoid: "Did I miss something? Wasn't I paying close enough attention? Aren't my tastes cool anymore?" That's when I slip the disc back in the player and give it another couple of listens, hoping it'll grow on me, or even ask a friend for a second opinion! Sadly, such was the case when I listened to Rhubarb's American debut, Kamikaze.

Rhubarb reminds me of a lighter pop version of Foo Fighters or Everclear without the clever hooks. The Foo Fighters' aggressive sound made their album interesting, and Everclear's hooks made their project memorable. Neither attribute is present here. Rhubarb is much more laid back, and the result is pretty bland. The quality sounds more like an unsigned, independent band rather than a major label release. They reminded me of the kind of band I could find in a local music club on any given Friday night five years ago.

Lyrically, Rhubarb is another Christian alternative rock band whose lyrics are just too ambiguous for my liking, but just Christian enough to tell that they are Christian. I love vague lyrics if there's a deep Christian truth waiting to be unveiled upon careful scrutiny (Steve Taylor, for example), but not if they're just weak metaphors like those found on Kamikaze. For example, you'd think the title track (Japanese for "divine wind") might be a great way to express killing off the old self and being remade new in Christ, set to some aggressive rock. Instead, both the music and lyrics are pretty relaxed (not to mention a little vague): "When it's time to go I'll meet you in the parking lot / we'll escape like a Kamikaze / but it's late and you're tired, but we're safe beneath the summer sky / you and me we're Kamikaze."

I also found little to grasp onto musically. The somewhat Beatle-esque "Lead Me" was one of the better tracks on the album, as was the string quartet based "Do Do Do," though there's nothing innovative in using electric guitars and string quartets in rock nowadays. Those tracks are just not enough to garner a positive review from me. I was pumped and ready to listen to "Exerciser," a big hit for the band in Australia. It greatly disappointed me to find it was your usual fast pop punk (lite Green Day) and only 1:40 in length. I think that best sums up the other songs on the album for me, all sounding like an inferior version of something I've heard before.

Reviews are little more than "professional" opinions with emphasis on the word opinions. Obviously Rhubarb has a strong following in Australia and has earned enough attention to be distributed here in America, so not everyone is going to agree with me. I had two other Christian music enthusiasts at work listen to Kamikaze — one loved it and the other disliked it for the same reasons as I. It's too bad, because this was a real disappointment for me; there's a lot of positive buzz coming from Australia for Rhubarb (the Australian version of Rolling Stone magazine raved about this album). I should also mention that I appreciate InPop Records' mission to bring the best in international Christian music to America, though my response to the artists released so far are mixed from the exceptional (Tree63) and good (Phil Joel of the Newsboys) to the fair (Beanbag) and now Rhubarb. I hope the best for Rhubarb and their fans; but for me, Rhubarb either needs to rock more or write more memorable melodies before they're promoted as "vibrant and exciting."