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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jun
Sounds like … melodic alternative rock resembling Foo Fighters, Audio Adrenaline, Tonic, Collective Soul, Fastball, and SwitchfootAt a Glance … there are moments of inspired lyrics and soaring rock on Remedy, but they're not enough to strongly recommend this often mediocre and mundane album

Strange Celebrity is the realization of Luke Brown's lifelong dream. The vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter from Chattanooga, Tennessee was actually already employed as a freelance songwriter in Nashville, but he wanted to start a strong rock band, one that could write their own memorable songs and would feature talented musicians who could put on a first-rate live show. The right candidates were not easily found, but he eventually formed the band in 2001 with drummer Rick Wilson, lead guitarist Quinton Gibson, and bassist Tracy Ferrie.

Luke then sought the advice of veteran Christian guitarist and producer, Chris Rodriguez, who also happens to be an A&R rep for Warner's Christian music division. His assistance led to a record deal and Strange Celebrity's debut, Remedy. The album is refreshingly produced by two names relatively unknown to the Christian music community—Nick Trevisick and Dan Wilde (a founding member of The Rembrandts, best known for the theme song of "Friends"). The band's sound is, in a sense, true to Luke Brown's vision, with modern rock that is both aggressive and melodic. Depending on which track you listen to, Strange Celebrity is reminiscent of Foo Fighters, Tonic, Audio Adrenaline, Switchfoot, Collective Soul, and Fastball. Miles Zuniga of Fastball, in fact, co-wrote this album's "I Can't Breathe" with Nick and Dan.

Far and away, the standout track on Remedy is the opener, "Free." Co-written by Chris Rodriguez (it shows in the chorus), it features a solid guitar riff, a catchy melody, and some rather inspiring words reminiscent of Creed's "Higher." The song was inspired by 9/11, and serves as a plea for peace and comfort in the aftermath of tragedy: "I am held in the prison cryin'/On my knees prayin' I won't die in this moment of grief/Now I'm here and I'm waiting." Chris also co-wrote "Control," another spiritually based song about the longing for a deeper relationship with God, as well as "Paralyzed," which conveys the emotions of one who is on the verge of spiritual renewal. I'd have to say my second favorite track on the album is "Rise," which was co-written by Cindy Morgan. The inspiring anthem rocks almost as effectively as "Free," with Luke confidently singing, "Floating underneath your wings, I can see it all so clearly/When I have nothing you give everything to me."

That about covers it for those seeking deeply spiritual songs, however. The majority of Remedy is concerned with broken earthly relationships. Some could perhaps interpret "If I" as a love song from God to humankind, though it's really more a song of romantic longing for the perfect relationship. The somewhat catchy "Back to Life," on the other hand, is purely about an earthly relationship: "I can't understand the way you feel/But I'm gonna keep on tryin' and tryin' until I get it right/A part of you inside of me is dying/So tell me what you're gonna do to bring me back to life." The aforementioned "I Can't Breathe" is concerned with a harmful obsession that ends up hurting one's self and other loved ones in life, and "Ruin" is about the struggle with despair and bitterness in the absence of another.

As with many bands on Tooth & Nail, I can appreciate that Strange Celebrity is trying to appeal to an audience broader than the Christian subculture. That should never serve as an excuse for generic fluff, though, since it serves no one. Except for a nice guitar solo by Quinton toward the end, "Someday" is an absolute bore of a rock ballad about peace and hope. The sentiments are nice and well-intentioned, but they don't say much: "Someday the sun's gonna shine and lift us beyond where we are/Someday, if only we could love one another/I hope we can reach out that far someday." Despite its title and the lyrics about the temptation to pursue an inappropriate relationship, "Dangerous" is surprisingly dull. And "Perfect World" gives the album a lumbering and unremarkable finish.

The unfortunate part about Strange Celebrity is that the talent is evident—just underutilized. Luke can write and sing well, Rick's a very good drummer, and Quinton delivers a few excellent guitar solos. Remedy is not unpleasant to listen to. It just doesn't offer enough to listen to it over and over. Despite their talent, the band generally opts for bland and simplistic modern rock for much of the album. Rockers like "Rise" and "Free" demonstrate some passion and skill, but ballads like "Someday" and "Dangerous" sound far too generic and amateurish. There's potential here, but Strange Celebrity's Remedy is not the cure for exciting and intriguing rock.