Among the things that turned me off of Christian music a long time ago is the rise of one of its staples, praise and worship. This is the stuff that should be defined and recognized by its message...it is called praise and worship after all. But what's happened over time is all the songwriters in the field have reached a plateau of contentment; it all sounds the same. Now, I can recognize a praise and worship song on the radio within seconds of listening. The same thing has unfortunately happened with contemporary Christian music. Sometimes, the two even bleed together; most radio stations that play one or the other will play both, and they go hand in hand. Derek Webb is an established singer/songwriter of the latter genre, and although I haven't personally heard any of his past releases, I can say with confidence that Stockholm Syndrome
is a step in the right direction for contemporary Christian music.
You don't have to get very many songs in to notice that Webb isn't adding a record to the ever-growing pile of generic CCM garbage. When I say garbage, I'm referring to the musical quality of these artists, of course, because they (should) exist as a band for the message of their lyrics and nothing else. Most of them appear to stay true to this notion, but the music suffers for it. Webb too made this observation, and went to work composing some fresh songs. I say fresh instead of original, because Stockholm Syndrome
draws major influence from English alt rock giants Radiohead. You may have heard of them. And when I say influence, I mean you can throw just about any of these songs on a Radiohead record and they'd be right at home. Even Webb's voice fooled me into thinking I was listening to Thom Yorke at some points. He took the same ingredients Radiohead like to use to create these songs...you've got the thick, atmospheric combination of synth and dreamy guitar, playful drums, and usually, a strong bass line that drives the song. This isn't something you haven't heard before, but it is certainly nice to hear it on an album that gets most of its sales in Christian bookstores.
The question here is how well Stockholm
holds up over time. Simply put, it will last a lot longer for you if you don't own a Radiohead record. So the new question is: should you get it if you already listen to the big guys? I would say so. There's no harm in owning a good record, no matter who it's influenced by (read: rips off). Is there anything left after the Radiohead comparison? Yeah. There's 13 great songs here, and they all flow wonderfully as if Webb wrote them all in a single setting. Lyrically he can't seem to leave a very observational and introspective setting; the album is full of thoughtful messages to both fellow Christians and himself. To make it better, it finishes with a bang because the last two tracks are the best. "What You Give Up to Get It" is a spunky dance anthem that's actually probably closer to newer Muse than Radiohead (not that that's a huge difference) - but it's catchy and awesome. Closer "American Flag Umbrella" is moody and melodramatic; a very fitting conclusion to such an introspective record.
is a satisfying listen. It's original within the confines of its field, it's melodic, and dreamy. But what I like most about it is how honest it is. Maybe not musically, but Webb's lyrics are deep and urging. If anything else, you can say that at least it's not another Christian album full of praise and worship...the lyrics, and lately even the music, of said genre have bled so closely together that it's become ridiculously easy to identify. You know something's wrong with a genre that's supposed to be identified by its message when it's easily identified by its music. Derek Webb has made an exception to the rule with this record, and I'm thankful for it. The good news for everyone else is that it's not a bad musical experience either. The only problem is that it's put Webb in a pretty tough spot; what can he possibly do on his next album?