ccm magazine, August 1994
author: Bruce A. Brown
»» Going Public
I was pretty shocked when I looked at my Not Ashamed album and realized
it had been two years since its release. After sales of approximately
a bazillion units (you probably bought one too, so that's a bazillion
& one), the logical thing to do would be to make Not Ashamed II and
buy your mother Graceland, right? Wrong, boy-o! If you thought Not Ashamed
was the best thing 30-minute pizza delivery, start saving those dollars,
because I'm betting you'll love Going Public.
The album reunites the production team of Steve Taylor & Peter Furler;
John James remains in the lead vocal slot, with the road-tested Duncan
Phillips and Kevin Mills on keys and bass, respectively. The newest
Newsie is guitarist Jody Davis; he and Mills add a "live," organic feel
to the sometimes programming-dominated sound with their creative solos
and inventive rhythm work. But where this Newsboys album betters its
predecessor is in the lyrical department. The band and Taylor seem to
have agreed that what they do best is write killer hooks and melodies.
From the first song on Going Public,"Real Good Thing," you're
assaulted with the Taylor wit. With the church in mind, the 'Boys sing
"All our good deeds don't mean squat," while "When we don't get what
we deserve/That's a real good thing" could also apply to a broader audience.
Building on the themes of their previous album, the 'Boys continue to
exhort and encourage their fans to make their faith visible, with songs
like"Shine" ("There isn't a way to explain the kind of change/That would
make a vegetarian barbeque a hamster/Sine/Make 'em wonder what you've
got" and the title track ("the cross makes him wish/That his spine was
more than a school of jellyfish…/The lines are drawn and clear/There's
no straddling fences here").
Going Public also contains some of the most serious fare the
Newsboys have ever featured on their records. "Truth and Consquences"
deals with a single Christian girl, who when rejected ("Dumped on more
than a birdhouse shingle"), falls in the crowd who tries to cajole her
into pre-marital sex, for the sake of being accepted. We never learn
if she heeds the chorus "Are you really gonna stand for love that waits
its turn?" The album's closer, the cleverly titled Elle G," is the melancholy
story of a suicide that doesn't reveal its plot immediately. You're
into the second verse before you're hit with the line "Did you really
assume/I'd find solace from the letter in your room?" As the storyteller
struggles to understand the death, he prays "A child of the Kingdom/Still
an invalid/Father forgive her/She don't know what she did."
There are also some reflective moments on the album, such as "Let It
Rain," where the Apostle Paul looks back on his life with Christ and
"Be Still," a pretty, prayerful ballad which reminds us that kneeling
is always a good posture from which to receive revelation. But Going
Public mostly walks a rock/alternative edge-and therein lies my
only criticism. I would love to hear less programming and mire "live"
music that is as challenging as the lyrics; likewise, it would be great
to hear the Newsboys take the Euro dance/fuzzy guitar/brittle drum sound
that they've been flirting with for two albums and be more aggressive
with it, or chuck it for the something fresher. The boys have earned
the right to experiment and if they keep making albums this good, their
audience will follow them.
--Bruce A. Brown ««