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CD review - ccm magazine (in English)

Newsboys - ''step up to the microphone'' (1998)from: ccm magazine, August 1998
author: Lou Carlozo
website: http://www.ccmmagazine.com

»» Step Up To The Microphone

There will always be those Newsboys fans who will cherish the group in the shiny space suits, singing about how hell is for wimps and warning of Satan's eternal shortage of breakfast cereal. That's understandable; some Van Halen fans refuse to play anything beyond the fun-loving David Lee Roth era.

But those listeners who give Step Up to the Microphone a chance will detect a poised maturity that could well catapult Newsboys to new levels of artistry and popularity. To use other Aussie outfits as a yardstick: Where once they could make you cringe, sounding as contrived and goofy as Men at Work, Newsboys now approaches the kind of cutting-edge cool reminiscent of INXS and Midnight Oil.

That's not to say they have fully arrived, though. One disappointment: The lyrical content on this disc too often forsakes bold imagery and personal testimony for the kind of facile, cookie-cutter dogma any neophyte band can muster. But give producer/songwriter and newly appointed lead vocalist Peter Furler his due. Step Up to the Microphone is musically muscular without the showboat flexing, at its best a dreamy and groovacious effort chock full of melodic hooks and funky good feeling.

Step Up to the Microphone is aptly and boldly named. While some successful bands try to gloss over key personnel changes, Newsboys isn't shy about acknowledging the departure of vocalist and co-founder John James. Into this void steps Furler, whose understated singing hits the emotional mark throughout. "Entertaining Angels," lead vocals this time marked by Phil Joel, is at once anthemic and engaging--those down-under accents out front (and pleasingly so) on the song's tag. The opening cut, "WooHoo," reeks of retro-rocking joy, with a refrain that sounds like Blur's "Song No. 2" rendered mellow by Howard Jones. And on "Believe" the ecstasy of faith beyond reason shimmers diamond-hard against a big-sky soundtrack. At times, the mid-tempo grooves that dominate this record get a bit tedious, but that's a minor complaint. Overall, Step Up captivates with its infectious, rhythm-drenched cool.

--Lou Carlozo ««

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