Faith, Hope, and Bono

Anthemic Christians range from altar calls to extreme pessimism

God, in his infinite wisdom, has given us so much music and so little time there's no reason to feel guilty about ignoring crappy gospel rock. Besides, the devil's aesthetics have always had more juice and Christian rockers have had a tin ear since at least the early '80s (anybody remember Carmen?). But Sufjan Stevens prays over girls with cancer of the bone and he scores the top-rated album on Metacritic. Does that mean there's hope for the faith-based?

Casting Crowns throw their lot in with the Savior—and by that we mean Bono, of course. "Lifesong," the title-track single off the Georgia septet's second album, opens not a little bit but exactly like "Where the Streets Have No Name." Mark Hall, a part-time youth pastor and CC's frontman and principal songwriter, has an arena-ready voice and a couple of energetic worship songs that don't let Christians off the hook. Otherwise, Lifesong is a just a well-produced altar call.

Though tagged "Inspirational" by iTunes, Switchfoot and leader Jonathan Foreman seem intent on keeping their origins as a Christian band on the down low. Their last album, the gorgeous The Beautiful Letdown, was worshipful in the abstract, while Nothing Is Sound is pessimistic in the extreme.

Switchfoot
photo: Danny Clinch
Switchfoot

"I'm tired of feeling low," Foreman announces in opening track "Lonely Nation" and then proceeds to sing 10 even more depressing songs. "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine," the best track, has Foreman doing an uncanny Bono impression during the album's most overt plea for divine intervention. The monster hook and charging guitars that push up "Happy Is a Yuppie Word" spiral down the drain when Foreman moans that "Everything is meaningless." Even if you didn't know it, you'd still figure out Nothing Is Sound was written and recorded on the road—for all its energy, it's strangely lifeless. Get this promising band to a church—or failing that, a studio with Brian Eno.

 
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