P.O.D. - When Angels & Serpents Dance
What better way for a band to say welcome back to its returning guitar player than to give an entire new album to the guy? After P.O.D, experienced massive success with Satellite in 2001, guitarist Marcos Curiel left the band or was kicked out, depending on who was telling the story. While his replacement, Jason Truby, was interesting and creative, it wasn't the same group. It wasn't the same arresting and immediate music that propelled them to the forefront of the Christian music market and made them significant players in the mainstream as well. The P.O.D. saga -- and most of the Yankees teams of this century -- is proof that you can have all of the talent in the world, but in a group, you have to work great together.
So, on their new album, When Angels & Serpents Dance, how is the reunited quartet that brought us Satellite -- which I still consider the greatest Christian rock album ever -- and 1998's The Fundamental Elements of Southtown?
Well, it's not exactly 2001 again. Rather than guys in their 20s singing for the "youth of the nation," Sonny, Marcos, Traa and Wuv are guys in their 30s, and their songwriting reflects larger (The End of the World) and more adult concerns (It Can't Rain Everyday). Rain actually sounds a bit like an updating of P.O.D.'s 2001 hit Youth of the Nation, which had a kid skating off to school and into a classmate's gunfire and a girl being sexually abused by older men. In It Can't Rain Everyday, we have a miscariage and a man losing his job. Not quite as dramatic, unless you appreciate the huge mature concerns those situations address. Addicted, the opening cut, is a pretty sober assessment of the grip drugs, alcohol and other vices can have on people, and the pain of an addict's friends and loved ones watching him or her in that grasp.
Roman Empire also throws back to a classic P.O.D. form, the instrumental with just a little vocal touch. It is really a canvas for Curiel to paint, as is much of the album. Most of the tracks on When Angels & Serpents Dance are defined by the six-string colors this creative ax man brings to them, be it the garage band crunch of Kaliforn-Eye-A, the Latin and somewhat classical style of Roman or the gentle acoustic drizzle of Tell Me Why.
No, P.O.D. is not completely back. The bluster of their youth frequently yields to an encroaching maturity, and the band is in the midst of a journey. The good news is Marcos is along for the ride.
Speaking of musical chairs: Delirious?, which we reviewed here a few weeks back, has a new man in the drummer's chair: Paul Evans taking over for the amicably departing Stew Smith.
End of an era: Most subscribers have now received the final print edition of CCM Magazine with CeCe Winans, Steven Curtis Chapman, tobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Aaron Gillespie and Mark Hall on the cover. Some cool items in it are an essay by original CCM editor John Styll, now president of the Gospel Music Association, on the mag's history; a glance into the crystal ball of contemporary Christian music by Charlie Peacock; and a letters to the editor section with people -- including Addison Road frontwoman Jenny Simmons -- begging the printed magazine not to go.
I have to agree. I don't know what financial pressures were impacting CCM, but strictly from a journalistic standpoint, it is too early for the primary publication about Christian pop music to go web only, and to be blunt, their website is not developed well enough that it can adequately substitute for the print product. The move deprives the genre of a definitive monthly document of its status and its progress, and though I love this cyberforum, I firmly believe the idea that everyone is on the web and gets all of their information from the web at this point in time is vastly oversold. A lot of people do, but not everyone. It was heartening that at a meeting I recently participated in with some of Lexington's brightest teens, a number of them said they still get their information about what to do from our print products. Dealing with Christian music publicists, when I run a review on this blog, they invariably ask if it will run in print. And that Letters to the Editor section and other comments in CCM were evidence that a lot of us eagerly awaited our monthly CCM to see who was being reviewed, what was in the news section and who was on the cover. That's coming to an end too soon.