Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
I See Things Upside Down
Genres: Pop, Christian
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Derek Webb Turns His Sound Upside Down
Stephen E. Vander Woude | Hammond, IN | 11/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Derek Webb, former co-leader of folk-pop outfit Caedmon's Call, returns with his sophomore solo record, "I See Things Upside Down", abandoning the bright country-folk of the impressive "She Must and Shall Go Free" for a denser mood-rock, complete with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco atmospherics.
The change can be jarring to one accustomed to Webb's earlier work. The closest touchstone in Webb's catalogue is probably his foray into a modern rock sound on Caedmon's Call's "Long Line of Leavers". But this new album is by no means a regression for Webb, but a bold step forward in distinguishing his art from that of his former band and the CCM sub-culture.
In the album opener, "I Want a Broken Heart", Webb laments his failures of faith over swirling keyboards and cello, punctuated by eerie piano stabs and synth pulses. The effect is mesmerizing. Variations on the theme are used to equally stunning effect on standout tracks "Medication" and "Lover Part 2".
The ramshackle-rock of "Ballad in Plain Red" finds Webb playing devil's advocate in a punchy, irreverent guitar-driven stomper with rattling percussion. The bridge here is expertly executed and enthralling. This song, one of Webb's best ever, could be the evil-twin to the Dylan-esque "Nothing (Without You)" from his first album.
Musically, Webb makes only a few missteps. The bouncy, by-the-numbers "T-shirts" may fit lyrically, but the sound is out of place in the middle of the album's edgier musical landscape. The same might also be said for the sweet "Better than Wine". However, that song stands on the strength of Webb's exquisite vocal, including a lovely falsetto in the chorus. And Webb could have added some interest to the five-minute instrumental comprising the bulk of the eight-minute "We Come to You", penned by Aaron Tate.
As on "She Must and Shall Go Free", the songs on "I See Things Upside Down" feature more of Webb's evocative, almost-brutally honest lyrics aimed at himself and the Christian Church in the United States. In "I Repent", he confesses for himself and the Church the sin of preferring comfort over sacrifice, unity over truth. Webb reminds the Church in "T-shirts" that too-often, Christians are known, not for their love, but for pointing their fingers at sinners and reducing the gospel to clichés printed on billboards and kitschy clothing. Lest anyone accuse him of finger-pointing himself, Webb saves his strongest critique for himself, admitting to his distorted desires in "What is not Love": I give myself / to what looks like love / and I sell myself / for what feels like love / and I pay to get / what is not love / and all just because / I see things upside down. Ultimately, Webb finds solace in the hope of Jesus, where "the strong, the tempted, and the weak" are united in the joy of salvation.
Fans of Webb's "relationship songs" from his Caedmon's Call days may have thought his marriage to singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken marked the end of his odes to the romantic. If so, they will be pleased to find Webb returning to the subject here, pleading for forgiveness from his wife in "Reputation" and using the Bible's Song of Songs as the template for a serenade to his lover in "Better than Wine".
With "I See Things Upside Down", Derek Webb has proved again that he is among today's most gifted song-writers and artists, inside and outside the Church. Songs this good should find attentive listeners in both places. Those who have ears, let them hear."
Coming Of Age
S. Jones | MO, USA | 11/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Derek Webb's new project is full of beautiful lyrics, melodies, and lots of breathing space. It has a mood and flow that makes you want to listen straight through without interruption. The songs simultaneously deconstruct the notion of a touch-and-go radio single, while at the same time leaving a lasting impression with haunting melodies and phrases. And his vocals are both vigorous and tattered, with a humanity I miss in much of todays slick music and in some of the Caedmon's Call albums.
With relevant themes of modern culture and faith, Derek writes with an honesty that would be compelling to people of all backgrounds and opinions. In other words, you could disagree with his ideas and still find something there to latch onto. I think my favorite track is, "What is Not Love". It is more or less the title track, and it frames the content like a birds eye view.
With "I See Things Upside Down" Webb is clearly showing a "coming of age" in his career. This project showcases his unique way of turning a phrase, coupled with a new freedom in expression and production. It tears down walls and categories, so if you're a listener that looks for something easy and safe to pop in the CD player, you may want to start by listening to some Johnny Cash, Wilco, and Joni Mitchell first. Then, you'll be ready for this kind of art. It is sure to stretch your ears and heart in all directions.
Both Lyrically and Musically Amazing
Clay Walker | Pineville, LA | 11/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on some reviews of this album, Derek was correct to predict that not everyone would appreciate this album. I find myself in the other camp that truly appreciates what Derek has done on this CD and since he left Caedmon's Call. The music on this project is not in the typical contemporary Christian style, and in my opinion, that's a great thing. The lyrics are challenging and well-crafted, and the music is amazing. It's remarkable how many issues I've struggled with recently have been addressed on this CD.
Ultimately, I think you should give this album a fair listen and decide for yourself before letting someone's review (including mine) persuade you either way. God bless."