A Moment of Imperfect Clarity

by: Spoken

There was a time, not very long ago, when the term Christian rock was more or less a misnomer. There was Christian pop, which tended to be bland and faceless, and there were acts like Stryper, which was no less bland, but bland in a different way. Now Christian rock is the stealth bomber of rock & roll; turn to a Christian rock station and you'll hear death metal, indie rock, emo, math rock, and hip-hop of all shades and varieties, and the only way you'll know it's Christian is if you listen carefully (sometimes very carefully) to the lyrics, which still only give away the game about half the time. This makes for some of the most entertaining radio stations on the FM dial. However, not every band on those stations is as interesting in particular as the genre has become in general, and that brings us to Spoken, a group that used to play the harsher, screamier side of the field, and is now sidling back over to a more melodic pop area. Unfortunately, the result feels watered-down and tentative, even in those moments when singer Matt Baird gives in to his inner metalhead and shrieks out his spiritual and emotional angst (as he tends to do only briefly at a time, often only for a few words, which is actually a pretty effective touch). When he's not shrieking, he's singing in a high, petulant voice that sounds like a cross between Steve Perry and Geddy Lee, and the band rocks solidly but generically behind him. At times (like on the misbegotten "Promise"), there is an embarrassing mismatch between roaring, angry vocals, and dewy-eyed lyrics. Occasionally the music rises above itself; the album's closing track, for instance, is a beautiful ballad that easily outshines everything else on the record. But for the most part, this is nothing more than solid, competent, and forgettable stuff. ~ Rick Anderson

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