Three Big Themes, One Big Record| Posted July 17, 2015
A lot has happened since The Neverclaim started writing for their second large-scale, full-length album, The Joy. They relocated from the Portland, Oregon area to Nashville. They said goodbye to one drummer (who went to be a missionary in India) and welcomed a new one (of Indian descent, actually).
They also said farewell to Provident Label Group to return to their independent, grassroots... um… roots. But another change in The Neverclaim has been their step away from their musical roots. The Southern rock/tenor Mac Powell/four-on-the-floor/banjo-tinged sound they’d developed over time has made way for more of a straight-up pop vibe--an intentional move to musically communicate the joyful themes of this new, crowd-funded record.
There are three big themes in The Joy. One is, the theme of God is reaching out to you; come to him! Another is, despite what’s happening in and around you, Jesus’ victory has sealed the deal. And the last theme has to deal with rallying the Church to share what’s been given to them. You see it repeated throughout the 10 tracks of The Joy, all with passionate and musically excellent flair.
THEME ONE: “God is reaching out to you”
This is immediately introduced in title track and album opener, “The Joy,” which deploys a dirty ‘80s-style rock riff reminiscent of John Cougar Mellencamp. It’s singing out a refrain of acceptance, welcoming people to a “love that never ends / where the grace of God moves again and again.” There’s a fun bridge that gets everyone singing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”--perfect for large corporate worship times.
The message of “Everything” is that regardless of how “big” or “small” your concerns are in life, Jesus cares about it all. He just wants you to bring Him “everything.” Piano and a hip-hop beat carry this OneRepublic-style number.
“Perfect God” beautifully mixes subtle electronic elements with a straight-up Christian rock edge, as lead singer Jeremiah Carlson--no longer deploying Southern twang in his vocals--implores us to “hear the song of Heaven call us home to the only Holy (holy, holy), perfect God.” A particularly poignant prayer implores God to, “Strip away a thousand lesser loves.”
THEME TWO: “Jesus’ victory has sealed the deal”
The second theme involves lots of declaring the beautiful supremacy of Jesus. “Dance With God” features more of those electronic elements that we hadn’t previously seen from The Neverclaim. The song is about recognizing the ultimate good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of life’s troubles, that we’re able to dance with God. It’s a great party song both for Sunday mornings and youth group events.
“More than conquerors, we cannot be defeated,” rings the triumphant “Through Christ.” It’s the slowest jam on the record (but still midtempo), and it shows off a soothing lower register in Carlson’s voice. God’s majesty and dominion are praised in “Rules and Reigns.”
In a record of standout tracks, the standout track among them is “Our God Wins.” There’s the great blend of the analog and digital. Big, arena drums. Synths and strings vibing in the background. But most of all, it’s a powerful reminder for the Church: “Even the enemy knows how the story ends: Our God wins.” It’s a song of triumph in the now and not yet. “We believe in Jesus, we receive His power to overcome all things.”
THEME THREE: “Share what you’ve been given”
As “a self-centered world keeps closing in”... “we were meant to spread this Joy inside, because of God can bring new life.” God has sought us out, and His victory is complete and sure, so now our purpose and response is defined. That’s the third theme, and it’s laid out in the explosive rallying cry, “Go.”
But we don’t “Go” alone. The song “Rise Up” is a call to unity--the most straight-up rock song the band has on this record. The upbeat alternative number says that “if we’re gonna rise, we’ve got to rise as one!”
Aimed right at the guys out there, “Mighty Men of God” provides clarity and calling for men at a time when the roles of fathers, husbands and men in general are confused and embattled. The song is one of commitment that will be the centerpiece of many a men’s event to come. “Have courage, He has called you. Let your heart be unafraid,” encourages this song. Perfect for radio, this tune lets us know that at the end of the day, we men have a very specific and special calling in our various spheres of influence.
There’s no doubt The Joy is The Neverclaim’s strongest release to date. While not oblivious to life’s struggles, the songs declare Jesus’ supremacy over challenges through personal appeals to each of us. The content is solid, and musically, it covers some new ground for the band. It’s also devoid of slow songs, which is rare this day in age, but really pushes the power and emphasis of the positive message.
The vast majority of these songs deserve to have radio play, and we hope stations don’t sleep on The Joy. It’d be to their detriment.
Song to Download Now:
“Our God Wins” (Get it on iTunes here.)