This ain’t yo mama’s Crowder.
Church Music is the 7th* full length album recorded by one of my favorite artists, David Crowder Band. I’ve been spending a lot of time w/ the album since last week and I can say I definitely wasn’t expecting what I got. Here’s what I thought.
Crowder has all but abandoned his acoustic rock alternative roots in favor of what I’ll refer to as the “club-mix.” I’ll let you make up your own mind about it, but for me, it works. I also think that it was the next logical step for the band. If you’d like to hear more about the reason for the sound you can check out Kyle Reed’s Podcast (at the 8:50 mark). The music, according to Crowder, is intended to mirror what we hear in current pop-culture. For better or worse, it’s noticeable. It is unapologetically “over-produced,” and there will be times where you aren’t sure if the band was included in a particular song’s recording. And although I am basically against the garbage that main-stream pop produces, the more I listen to Church Music, the more I like it.
The majority of the CD has that “club-mix” sound. It’s like Crowder shook hands with Dance Factory (which I admit is awesome). If you have glow sticks, you might break ’em out. But it’s peppered with some real surprises and variety. I won’t spoil it for you.
You’ve never heard so much production on Crowder’s voice before. There’s more layering, harmonies, and modulation than all his past albums combined. It’s all well done and tasteful and it’s cool to see Crowder do more with his very unique voice. Though I miss the somewhat raw sound that he’s mostly used in the past, I found this to be fun. Even though he’s modeled this album after pop-music I’m sure glad I’m not subjected to the Auto-Tune warble that everyone is so fond of. That would’ve ruined it for me.
I’ve touched on this already, but it deserves it’s own category. The thing about Crowder’s band is that they are all extremely versatile. Go to one of their concerts and you’ll see these guys trading out instruments like crazy. If you haven’t actually seen them in action, you might mistake versatility for laziness (on the album) since a lot of the music is made up of synthesizers, rhythm loops, and a host of sound samples. You get the impression 1/2 the album could be done w/ Crowder’s vocals and Reason. However, I like how it all comes together. I find myself just marveling, thinking, “what the heck even makes that noise?” Also, I swear these guys mix their music with 8-bit NES game sound effects. It’s likely you’ll listen to the entire album the first time through without noticing the lyrics and real instruments b/c of all the intricate things going on. You’ll have to dig for them, but the electric guitars, violins, and live DJing are buried in there. The only bad thing is the lack of acoustic guitar.
Just like most “club-mix” songs, the lyrics are good, yet forgettable. The music is so different than what you expect from Crowder that I can hardly ever pay attention to the lyrics. I didn’t really even notice them until my 4th time through. The strongest thing they have going for them, however, is how much emotion is packed in with the simplicity of the wording. Once you hear it, you’ll feel like some real heart and soul come pouring out amidst the blips, beats, and riffs.
The Bottom Line.
I really feel like Church Music has something for everyone. You’ll hear some traditional Crowder rock anthems, a 70s disco disco, an 80s power jam, and if you’re paying attention you’ll be able to hear the other songs and sounds that influenced the way this CD is put together. It’s an amazing album. I didn’t really think that the first time I heard it (though it was a very casual listen). It’s not as lyrically powerful as Remedy, but it has a great flow. In fact, you should be able to listen to the album front to back w/o taking a break and w/o getting bored.
This album reminds me of why I became a DCB fan in the first place. They are always doing things just a little different. The songs are always not quite right for church, but that’s what makes me want to try them anyway.
I give this album 4/4 TPACs and I highly recommend it.
*I’m not including the Remedy Limited Edition or Remedy Club-Tour in my count.