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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jul
Sounds like … a poor attempt at the fusion modern rock and hip-hop sound of Linkin Park and Pax 217, with leanings more toward Newsboys and SwitchfootAt a Glance … though produced fairly well by the great Alan Shacklock, the album is marred by awkward rapping, derivative sounds, and trite lyrics

With seven years under their belts, over 400 concerts performed, and three top 10 rock radio hits, it's about time Arkansas band Tinman Jones moved up from the independent ranks to major label territory. Thanks to Cross Driven Records, that's become the latest notch in the band's belt of accomplishments, allowing their music to reach a wider audience than local and regional tour dates could provide. Prior to the brand new Poetic release on Cross Driven, Tinman Jones's independent record, Gravity Youth, became an underground favorite, especially among youth group goers and teens (the band's primary ministry demographic). Now, with the help of Alan Shacklock (Abbey Road Studios) whose credits include Meatloaf, Styx's Dennis DeYoung, Phil Keaggy, and Newsboys, Tinman Jones is hoping to take their sound to an even wider cross section of fans while maintaining the presence on rock radio they're already used to achieving.

In a sense, the group will have no trouble finding chart time as Poetic's 11 cuts all have at least some sort of marginally catchy appeal and choruses that are easy to memorize. But in many instances the group falls prey to the formula of its Christian rock contemporaries, sounding no different than a slew of other faceless rock radio bands. For starters, the group's lead-off song "Friend" is just another generic melodically-centered pop/rock cut that fits right into the same unoriginal category as groups such as Everyday Sunday or Among Thorns in its latest incarnation, with sophomoric lyrics like "What does it mean to be a friend/I give my life to you and then/All of the love I have to send/Oh what it means to be a friend."

The lackluster vertical lyrics continue on "Falling Forward," boasting lines like "Tripped again stumbling to the ground/But this time I'm falling forward, falling forward/Took a hit, but I won't back down/Cuz' when I fall I'm falling forward, I'm falling forward." I'm sorry to report that the brash title cut and the praise-minded "I Will" (re-retooled slightly from the group's indie days) are also simplistic in their thematic focus revolving around the Christian faith while once again calling to mind Seven Day Jesus or Bleach. The latter cut's lyrics sticks to unimpressive basics such as "If you don't praise him I will/If you don't cry out I will/I'm here waiting to get my fill/If you don't praise him I will."

A short rap by percussionist Don Guthrie does nothing to improve "Friend," and it's that same out-of-place rap that sabotages "Father Like You," which, combined with the surf-rock motif and catchy pop progression, sounds just as silly as though KJ-52 were to infiltrate a Switchfoot song. A slightly better use of Guthrie's freestyle urbanization interacting with lead vocalist's Bryan Alexis' scruffy pop disposition is found on "Falling Forward," which despite the trite lyrics is a building ballad that falls into the Audio Adrenaline or Bleach-styled rock punctuated with hints of Pax 217.

Close followers of the band and rock radio in general will probably recognize another of Tinman Jones's re-recordings in the form of "Superhero." Building off the original version, take two is a punchy, fleshed-out guitar-driven composition with, unfortunately, some of the most trite and cheesy lyrics circulating these days. Repeated phrasing of "Jesus wants to be your superhero/Jesus wants to be your superhero" bring the band down to an elementary level. "Sunshine" takes on a slightly more assertive backbeat with a better example of Alexis' enthusiasm, except the group still insists on the simplistic, forming the lyrics around the very true but frequently used assertion that knowing God can enhance the other relationships in your life.

While the album lacks musical ingenuity and lyrical craft, that doesn't mean the group's messages and upbeat sounds won't be effective in reaching out to fans. Obviously, Tinman Jones has enough of a following to get them this far, and their commitment to ministry is admirable, intending to encourage the body of Christ with Poetic. I just wish they could have done so with a deeper commitment to artistry by demonstrating a more cohesive sound and expressing lyrics that dug a bit deeper than the regularly addressed surface issues of Christianity. For those familiar with the group's past who want to continually chart their direction, I suppose this project will probably hit your purchasing radar screen. If not, I'd sooner recommend more relevant alternative pop/rock projects by Switchfoot, Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Pax 217.