Release Date: May 6th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- I Will Love You (4:18)
- Always Yes (3:30)
- Forever and Ever (3:44)
- Your Love Never Fails (3:58)
- Carry My Heart (3:50)
- Give Me Faith (3:50)
- Saved My Soul (3:06)
- What We Stand For (3:41)
- Forever Free (4:06)
- Stronger (3:53)
- Take The World (3:29)
A couple of years ago, I reviewed The Museum’s My Only Rescue, and gave it a pretty mediocre assessment, claiming that there was a lack in passion and creativity, with the album suffering the plight of sameness. Now, just under two years later, the worship effort What We Stand For releases via BEC Recordings from the quartet from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s been more than common practice over the past few years for CCM bands to record worship focused albums (Kutless’ 2012 album Believer, and Rush Of Fools’ upcoming 2014 release Carry Us Now stick out in my mind as being my personal favourites), so how does Ben Richter and his friends pull off this change in genre? Well for starters, it’s better than their previous album, however there still are areas of improvement, although the band does serve up some God orchestrated moments, and a few songs that are in my favourite songs list of 2014 so far!
Though a quick listen to the album, we are presented with light acoustics, and an overall CCM atmosphere that could make the listener think that the band have not progressed musically despite a few eye opening tracks, for me it is the lyrics that seem to be more focused, more refined, and hence seeming much more impacting and powerful than the disappointing 2012 studio release. With the band declaring and proclaiming through these songs, and future anthems of the church, what they want to be and accomplish, the theme through each track of trusting God despite our circumstances, and despite everyone else’s possibly differing opinions, is very evident.
The title track opens with an authoritative electric guitar riff, then settles into a mid-tempo declaration of our faith, as Ben sings about us being the hands and feet of Jesus for those who don’t know Him, so that ‘…the whole world…[sings]…glory to our God, every nation believe You are Saviour, let Your sprit pour out like a river on us…’, reminding me of The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20) and Audio Adrenaline’s song “Kings And Queens”. Competently doing a great job at inspiring and encouraging us, in our daily walk with Christ and nudging us to evangelise to our non-Christian friends; The Museum then delve into a manner of topics that are relevant to the kingdom of God and today’s society. There are adequate covers unveiled on this track list (although not as impacting as the original versions) of Jesus Culture’s “Your Love Never Fails”, sounding more acoustic than Newsboys’ version, with Ben sounding quite a lot like Robbie Seay; Hillsong’s “Stronger”, which is slowed down in pace, however still brings new life to this underrated worship anthem; and the album closer, the timeless hymn of “Give Me Jesus”, called “Take The World” here with an impressively originally written bridge. Showing us the themes of God’s faithfulness, and His love being reliable; God’s strength which is greater than any of our earthly efforts, as ‘…it is written Christ is risen Jesus you are Lord of all…’; and of surrendering everything to Jesus ‘…in poverty or life’s great riches, give me Jesus’ precious name…’, respectively in these aforementioned enjoyable renditions; what The Museum aptly do is make these relevant worship anthems their own, even if the original versions still speak to me the most, and that fact I can commend them for.
It’s not just the covers that The Museum excel at on this album to a degree, with Ben’s song writing prowess shining through on many brand new inspiring tracks. While the original “Forever And Ever”, a guitar led radio friendly ballad, is the most repetitious and seemingly most CCM album of the bunch, with the words proclaimed ‘…glory and honour, forever and ever, glory and honour, forever amen, glorious power, forever and ever, forever and ever Your kingdom will reign…’, which is similar to the end part of the Lord’s Prayer; the topic of God reigning on high what we all could be singing to Him when we get to heaven, is a really interesting topic, one that I can gladly say cancels out the lyrical simplicity of the track. It is not until the bridge (which is the first verse of “Doxology”) that my opinion of the track does a complete 180, kudos to the band who have included this underrated hymn into their newer material.
The band also explore the notion of freedom in the simple, reflective guitar prominent slow tempo ballad “Forever Free”, where we can cry out with conviction that ‘…every chain is broken down, Your light shines out the darkness, by the power of Your grace I’m forever free…’, and also delve into the gratitude that Jesus has saved us and made us whole, in the electronic first single “Saved My Soul”, with the danceable toe tapper containing some of the boldest pieces of musical creativity in the band’s inception, with lyrical genius also employed as Ben compares God’s relentless pursuit of us like a cannonball hitting us and thunder grabbing out attention. In contrast “I Will Love You”, the album opener, plays out like a modern hymn, a love song from God to us, driven by acoustic guitars, mandolins and banjos. As Ben ardently and fervently cries out ‘…I will love you, I will love you, with all that I am, I will save you when the world’s caving in…’, there’s a sense of vulnerability and intimacy in the song where we can just commune with and surrender to God- just Him and us. In that way, the emotional and personal realisation, from God to us, is perfect as the first song, and Ben’s wife Mary Grace singing on the last verse as a guest vocal is definitely the icing on the proverbial ‘cake’!
Ben and his friends also try their hand at covering Elevation Worship’s “Give Me Faith”, this time changing it up from a guitar led worship song to one driven by synth and keys, with a result that is surprisingly modern and fresh, creating a 4 minute melody where we can soak in the presence of God and cry out ‘…give me faith, to trust what You say, that you’re good and your love is great…’, an outward expression of our trust in Jesus. Yet it is the Holy Spirit anointed tracks of “Always Yes” and “Carry My Heart”, in my opinion; that separates What We Stand For from its 2012 counterpart My Only Rescue.
The banjo infused and country inspired “Always Yes”, in its upbeat and bouncy nature, brings a smile to my face as bluegrass and folk undertones are used, like the styles David Crowder*Band and Rend Collective Experiment. The topic of discussion is far from light and fluffy though, with Ben and co. outline God’s faithfulness and ability to keep His promises, something that we should be grateful for and thank our Saviour that His Word can be trusted, and it is the timeless message of trusting God, coupled with the creative music, that makes me classify this song as a winner. The piano led heavily personal and poignant melody “Carry My Heart”, the most heart-wrenching melody that the band has probably ever recorded; caps off an album filled with joyous moments of celebration to God as well as hard moments of surrender in the valleys of life. Born from the miscarriages of many of the band member’s wives, and the aftermath of these tumultuous events, “Carry My Heart” takes the verses from Psalm 139. As Ben pleads with God and cries out with a burning passion to ‘…carry my heart, when my whole world falls apart…’. If I wasn’t convinced about The Museum’s potential as songwriters, I most certainly am now; that’s how moving this God breathed track was! Well done Ben, Josh, Sam, Joey, Nick and Brett, for a well-rounded album that leads me into personal worship with my Lord Jesus Christ!
My conclusion of My Only Rescue was that it needed to be more cohesive, and What We Stand For accomplishes this quite well. Though still at times sounding a tad too simplistic in the lyrics (“Forever Free” and some parts of “Forever And Ever” especially), and with some covers not standing out that much when compared to other renditions and the original recordings (“Your Love Never Fails” and “Stronger”), there are also exquisite and special moments where the band shines brighter than before, namely in “Carry My Heart” and “Always Yes”! Of course there are top notch worship songs, alongside standard CCM pop radio friendly tracks, The Museum have more than made up for their album which fell prey to the ‘sophomore slump’. Though they haven’t got everything 100% right, some ingenuity is welcomed and a nice surprise from left field. Here’s to hoping album #4 keeps on getting better and better.
3 songs to listen to: Carry My Heart, Always Yes, Give Me Faith
RIYL: MIKESCHAIR, Sidewalk Prophets, The Afters, Kutless