ccm magazine, February 1996
author: Bruce A. Brown
»» Take Me To Your Leader
Have Newsboys become News-Men? Judging from the musical maturity and
spiritual depth of Leader, the answer would have to be an unqualified
Once among the favorite whipping boys of many critics (including this
one, frequently), the "Boys took a great step toward credibility on
Not Ashamed with the addition of Steve Taylor to the production and
writing team. Of course, then, we were eager to punch holes in the band's
musical façade, and ascribe all the best moments on that album and its
fine follow-up, Going Public, to the wacky Taylor.
The fact is, over the past four years, Newsboys has shorn up whatever
leaks may have existed in its songwriting boat. While Taylor unquestionably
continues to bring a great deal to the table, the six "Boys, notably
main composer Peter Furler, have grafted some of Taylor's "nutty professor"
vibe onto some very well-written songs. It's a seamless fit, making
it impossible to tell where Taylor's influence ends and Furler's imagination
And that imagination extends to the music as well. Besides John James"
expected excellence on vocals, Leader is brimming with aggressive guitar
work by Jody Davis, solid contributions from rhythm section of Furler
and bassist Phil Urry, and solid sound layering by keyboardist Jeff
Frankenstein and percussionist Duncan Phillips. It's also worth noting
that Furler and Urry handle some lead vocals and that (according to
the liner notes), "This album contains no sequencing or loops.'
Because of Furler's affinity for crafting catchy keyboard and guitar
hooks, you're often bopping along to the beat, when you find yourself
confronted with lyrics like "And would I wash my hands again?/Would
I deny my savior when He hung inside the public square?" Or how about
"This bitterness you hide/It seeps into your soul/And it steals your
joy/'Til it's all you know ….'
However, even the most challenging tracks on Leader are not without
their hilarious moments-what else would you expect from Furler and his
mentor? For instance, in "God is Not a Secret," crossover music gets
a back-handed swipe with the line "I've heard that positive pop you
dig/I'd rather be buried in wet concrete." The tale of prodigal son
gets a seriocomic update with "Reality," as the wayward child finds
himself working in a circus, asking his folks to send money (naturally)
and to please "find a better photo for the milk carton backs." After
tiring of selling his blood for cash and "shoveling elephant dung,"
the prodigal learns that, "It's His reality that welcomes us back."
Even a song which seems just plain silly, like "Breakfast" ('Oh rise
up, Fruit Loop lovers/Sing out sweet & low…') makes a silent point-'We
don't mourn like those who have no hope.' Even the few pretty ballads
mixed into the stew on Leader seem to have more backbone than several
of the "Boys previous efforts. The au courant feel of the alternative
"grunge lite" on Leader seems less like a band copying a trend
than getting comfortable in its own musical skin. And that's a real
--Bruce A. Brown ««