There was a good reason to be excited about Pillar’s new album, For the Love of the Game. That reason was Pillar’s last album, The Reckoning. It was a big step forward, an album that signaled the group was being much more thoughtful and creative about how it approached music and lyrics.
Unfortunately, this album is a huge step backward. For the Love of the Game is as big an arena-rock cliche as the title makes it sound. No more nuance. No more reflective songs informed by the lives of the band members and people they’ve met. No more experimentation in styles and tempos. It's just a barrage of 10 tunes that sound like they all want to be the soundtrack for an ESPN Ultimate Highlight reel. Now, a band with a flair for arena-rock anthems, should put a few on a new album. And there are some good fist pumpers here. But there’s no variation and little substance. If this was Pillar’s first album, we might say, “Good start, you’ve got the basics down. Now let’s see where you take it. And a few notes: Avoid hackneyed song titles like Turn it Up, Get Back and State of Emergency. And you might want to try a little variety beyond one bridled, obligatory power ballad (Smiling Down).”
But this Pillar’s fifth album.
Let’s hope it’s just some sort of band midlife crisis.
One other quibble: I was dumbfounded reading the opening graphs of Pillar's press bio, which is also up on the group's website:
You might not think that a first-century Jewish rabbi-turned-missionary who originally hailed from ancient Turkey, and four guys in a 21st-century rock band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, would have much in common.
But you’d be wrong.
Likewise, the apostle known as Paul probably never could have imagined that one day, 21 centuries after he lived, a band called Pillar would deliver the very same message of Christ’s love that he did—this time around via the incendiary crunch of distorted power chords paired with roaring vocals, over the cacophony of crashing drums and the bone-rattling thump of the bass.
I was sitting at my desk reading this thinking, "Are these guys seriously comparing themselves to the Apostle Paul?!" Seriously?!
New Music today: Open the floodgates, 'cause in addition to new Pillar, you've got new Leeland with Opposite Way, Stellar Kart's Expect the Impossible, and Avalon's Another Time, Another Place -- Timeless Christian Classics. There are a bunch of others too. Check the GMA website for a complete list.
Passing: Contemporary Christian music pioneer Larry Norman died on Sunday at his home in Oregon. He was 60. Go to his website for more details. Norman started marrying rock and folk music with Christian lyrics in the late 1960s and early '70s, before there even was a genre known as contemporary Christian music. Wikipedia has a fairly thorough and well-sourced page on Norman and his influence in the Jesus Movement of the 1970s and artists he helped and influenced, including Bob Dylan and Daniel Amos. One of his biggest albums was his 1972 release, Only Visiting this Planet. Now, it seems, he's gone home.
Concert: Don't forget, Brandon Heath, Robbie Seay, BASIC and Jason McAnally play Asbury College's Darfur HOPE Concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 at Asbury's Hughes Auditorium. You can get tickets online at the Ichthus website.