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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

New Map of the World

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 May
New Map of the World
Sounds like … modern pop/rock in the same spirit as Everclear, Vertical Horizon, Jars of Clay, and The PoliceAt a Glance … the international debut from pc3 is rife with musical hooks, challenging lyrics, and impressive musical talents.

Leading off a 2002 trend for "new artists who aren't really new" is Australian band Paul Colman Trio, which started in 1998 when independent artist Paul (who already had released two solo projects) recruited drummer Phil Gaudion for a trip to the United States. Upon their return, they decided to add a bassist, settling on Paul's longtime friend Grant Norsworthy. Thus, "pc3" was born, eventually becoming the most successful independent artist in Australia's history. They earned widespread airplay on the radio as well as the title Artist of the Year for both 2000 and 2001, according to The Rock Across Australia music charts. The trio released four independent projects before one made its way across the Pacific into the hands of Essential artist Mac Powell (Third Day) and acclaimed producer Monroe Jones (Third Day, Chris Rice, Ginny Owens). The band soon signed with Essential, moved to the United States, and with the help of Monroe, released their international debut, New Map of the World.

They may not be from this country, but Paul Colman Trio will fit right in with the Christian Hit Radio music scene here in the U.S. You'll enjoy pc3 if you enjoy modern rock/pop groups such as Everclear, Vertical Horizon, Jars of Clay — at times they even recall Sting's popular '80s trio The Police. Paul's instrumental skills rely mostly on rhythm guitar, though he's capable of a few fine lead guitar solos. Backed by the rhythm section of Grant and Phil, the trio displays an above-average level of musicianship not typically heard in the Christian music industry. Monroe's additional production touches elevates pc3 beyond basic rock band sounds, adding studio musicians for keyboards, strings, and additional guitars. That said, Australian fans of the band might want to consider whether or not they want New Map of the World, since most of the material is culled from previous pc3 projects. Make no mistake, however, that all of the songs were newly recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Essential debut.

The album's lead track, "Turn," has hit written all over it. It's an excellent modern-rock song that challenges non-Christians to seek Jesus and encourages Christians to make an impact beyond their secluded Christian subculture. Bold and challenging lyrical content such as this appears in many of the songs on New Map of the World. In the album's most rocking track, "Selfish Song," Paul sings, "Who is gonna sing my selfish song? Well the answer is me, so don't sing along. Who is gonna change this heart of stone? Oh my God, my life is a selfish song." The simple pop of "Fill My Cup" sounds like a modern-day psalm, a prayer for spiritual renewal, "I called on you lately, come on and rescue me / I feel like a calendar from another year / This barren ground, these bones are dry and ready / I break bread and wine, but I'm still feeling empty." One of the album's most dramatic and powerful tracks is "The Killing Tree," which sums up the price paid by Christ, who took our place on the cross. It's followed by the peaceful closing track, "Lullaby," which worshipfully captures our response to Christ's death on the cross.

New Map of the World is good and consistent, but some of the tracks are less successful than others. The group sounds only average on the upbeat pop song "Your Sweet Voice" and on the ballad "Love Me More," both of which recall typical Christian pop sounds. The song "Africa" feels a little too obvious in its observation that people often come away from a missions trip at least as changed as the people they went to help. Though the song is peppered with light percussion, the strings on the track bring images of the Middle East to mind rather than African countries. "I Dream" creates a vision of Revelation, a montage that shifts from suffering to spiritual conflict and ultimately to peace. I applaud the effort to do something a little different by blending singing with the spoken word and adding lots of production flourishes (such as the majestic string section when peace finally is restored to the earth). Unfortunately, the elements never seem to gel together smoothly enough.

I may have my personal critiques, but I can't complain about New Map of the World or find fault in it. As far as Christian modern pop/rock projects go, this is much better than the majority of what's available. It's not so much a question of whether or not you'll like the modern pop/rock of this album, but rather how much you will like it — I suspect it'll range from indifference to high praise for most people. Thousands of Americans undoubtedly have already heard pc3 as the opening act for Third Day's current tour with Bebo Norman. You can expect thousands more to eventually seek out this thoughtful, catchy, and radio-friendly project from the Paul Colman Trio.