No one will ever accuse Kutless of being an innovative band. There's probably nothing on the band's new album, To Know That You're Alive, or any of their other releases that wasn't already done 20-or-more years ago. You hear echoes of Bon Jovi or Whiteheart, if you're older, or, say, Skillet if you're younger. It's emotionally-charged arena, anthem rock. Everybody sing along.
So it would be easy to slag Kutless for not doing anything new. But what they do is pretty inspired, employs a classic rock structure to speak to modern audiences, and hey, this is Christian rock -- don't we need anthems?
Things get started right away on To Know with The Feeling, a "We come into your town, we help you party down," raver with a little spirituality thrown in. The title track is power rock tune that makes being a Christian sound like a James Bond movie or a horror flick the way it portrays confronting the darkness of the world. Call it histrionic or dramatic, it's a theme that runs through several songs, including The Rescue and most effectively in Promise You, a chronicle of overcoming abuse. Kutless also effectively writes for worship audiences, where its Strong Tower album was directed, with tunes like Complete and You.
No, none of it is terribly original for Christian or mainstream rock. But the guys in the band have grown as focused songwriters, able to carry even the most dismissive listener through three verses, chorus and bridge; guitarists James Mead and Nick DePartee have developed their voices; and bassist Dave Luetkenhoelter and drummer Jeffrey Gilbert are a full-throttle rhythm section.
The new album makes you kind of sorry we missed Kutless when its Ichthus Festival set was rained out last month. And that may be the biggest sign the Oregonians are doing things right. They may not be making rock history, but they're making solid rock.
Stay tuned: Apparently another shot at seeing Kutless locally is coming soon. Check back a little later to find out where.