Great songwriting mired in 'off' production
Posted March 28, 2014
I have to say the moment I first heard Peter Furler sing on the new Sun and Shield album, I took a nice deep breath. I mean, Christian music just isn't the same without his voice.
Yes, I'm aware Furler already released a solo album a few years ago, but it was always an uncertain thing. People just weren't sure if he was sticking around. With the new "Peter Furler Band"--featuring former Superchick/former Audio Adrenaline guitarist Dave Ghazarian and drummer Jeff Irizarry--it seems Furler is letting us know he's looking to do something a bit more permanent.
It's impossible to mention Furler without mentioning Newsboys. While today's Newsboys (with Michael Tait at the helm) are perhaps hotter than ever, one thing we at NRT noticed with the band's recent release, Restart, is that the quirky songwriting of the band is a thing of the past. That quirky songwriting, of course, could be attributed to its former frontman, Furler.
So for those Newsboys fans pining for the quirky lyrics of old, Sun and Shield has you covered. The driving opener, title track "Sun and Shield" provides this gem: "Bitterness is a fault line / Envy's a golden calf / Idols break when it all shakes down / And split your heart in half."
Let's get this out of the way right now: the cover art is a bit disappointing. I mean, it appears that it's just a press photo of the band with someone putting "PETER FURLER BAND" in Arial font across them diagonally. I just would think at the stage in his career we might see something a bit more creative. I digress...
Also, in other not-so-shiny news, there's just something odd about the production values of this album. Not sure if it's the mixing, the effects placed on the tracks, or a combination of the two, but it seems Furler has taken a step back in terms of overall studio sound on Sun and Shield. It's a bit distracting, and it takes extra effort to focus on the "bones" of the songs, as well as the lyrics.
Musically, though, there are some noteworthy highlights. "Yeshua" is anthemic and big, and echoingly worshipful. The aggressive and soaring "The Overcomer" is probably the best-produced track on the album, and carries a tremendous message--definitely the strongest song there. "Shame" shows the softer side of Furler with emotional, whispery vocals that build into a cry of desperation.
There are some other good moments, too. "So High" starts with a bass-heavy intro that basically just screams "Australia!" Happy to hear it. "Dare I Say" carries a dirty-rock vibe to reflect its bombastic lyrical theme of calling out the enemy's lying tactics.
Lyrically, there are some really great themes overall. "So High" talks about the futility of seeking self-centered success in this world. "Shame" is a deeply personal confession about how downcast feelings and thoughts can plague over and over. "Yeshua" is a ballad of high praise to Jesus.
"The Overcomer" provides some of the best wordplay, focused on the broken state of the world: "In this world ' We know the powers that be / Let dragons run free / Take heart, don't be afraid / This world's gonna be reborn / Sundown's coming / But we're getting warm / Here between Heaven and the perfect storm / You are the Overcomer."
On "The High Road," Furler talks about the path of righteousness versus the path of selfishness and the world: "Some run by on a victory lap / Some get lost and curse the map / Some give up and circle back around / When the high road calls out to the crippled and the blind / If you seek with all your heart / You will find."
Sun and Shield highlights lots of things that are good about Peter Furler, but sadly they're mired in a lot of sub-par production. If you can focus on the foundation of the songs, the incredible wordplay, and the fun Aussie-sounding musical licks, then you'll be in a good spot with this album.
My guess would be that the live experience would most certainly trump the audio experience on the album. Furler is an incredible entertainer and has written some good songs here; it's too bad they weren't given the treatment they deserved.
Song to Download Now:
"The Overcomer" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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