Release Date: September 2nd 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Better Than Life (Resuscitate)
- Daylight (Daylight is Coming)
- All Along (Daylight is Coming)
- Resuscitate (Resuscitate)
- Hope (Daylight is Coming)
- Crystal Sea (Resuscitate)
- Statues (Rip Open the Skies)
- Come Up (Rip Open the Skies)
- Guide You Home (Daylight EP)
- Jack’s Song (previously unreleased)
‘…this is a collection of songs that we re-imagined in 2016 – my favourite songs that I wrote between 2004 and 2012. These melodies remind my soul of hope and hope reminds me of sights yet unseen and we felt like it was time to give these songs a new life…Hope is a melody – a beautiful sight for the worn and weary eye. Brighter than the fires on the West Coast, louder than the bombs in Syria, more vibrant than a virus, stronger that the winds of the tornado or the shackles of oppression. She stands in the wreckage of lost accomplishment, she walks in the rubble of broken dreams, when castles in the sand are washed away, when the moon goes blood red and the stars fall, when the flood waters rise, when the bottom drops out – there’s Hope, sweet Hope like a star burning bright – when the sun goes down and the fears begin to fly…I want the new recordings of these songs to amplify the melody of hope above the noise of fear and despair…’ Since releasing their debut label album in 2008 (Daylight is Coming), as well as several other EPs and albums afterward; Remedy Drive have undergone a fair amount of changes, from 3 of the 4 brothers leaving the band, along with switching from Word Label Group to Centricity Music, and then back to being independent again…yet with all these changes, their poignant music has always stayed the same. They have continued to be a band that inspires and offers hope, and their new album Hope’s Not Giving Up is still a reflection of that. Touted as a best-of project, this 10 track album, while it doesn’t really give a full snapshot into the career which is Remedy Drive, nevertheless gives people a glimpse, albeit a small one, into quite possibly one of the most underrated bands in recent Christian music history. Standing at 10 tracks, the songs spawn over a few albums (the only album not represented on this 10 track song set is Commodity), each being re-recorded with new musical arrangements, some even the whole melody stripped away and a new one being recorded. While it has been a little time since I have heard Remedy Drive and their music; Hope’s Not Giving Up provides some unique musical backdrops as the band present songs that a familiar, yet recorded differently as well. Released on the same day as new albums from All Sons and Daughters, B. Reith, and The Isaacs; Remedy Drive have still shown us a band they can be, even if all their songs were re-workings of well-loved originals.
While at first glance you can see that this best-of project isn’t really that much of a best of project (where’s songs from Commodity or Light Makes a Way EP?), these 10 tracks nevertheless provide a great snapshot of the band, from then till now, and include most of the band’s radio singles over the years. “All Along”, featured on both WOW Hits 2009 and WOW Hits 2010, was the band’s first radio single, and quite possibly their most popular song ever. Not straying too far from the original recording (except from adding in a few electric guitar riffs), we witness a track that tells a tale of how the persona was tirelessly amassing a fair amount of material possessions, when in fact ‘…all along I was looking for something else, You’re something else, all along I was looking for something more, You’re so much more…’ While the song can be read as if the vocalist was singing to a friend, mate, girl/boyfriend or someone else; “All Along” is a reminder, that what we focus our energies on in this life cannot and shouldn’t compare to what God has in store for us, in this life and the next!
“Hope” and “Daylight” are the other two representations from Daylight is Coming that are given the ‘re-imagined’ treatment on this album, and while both these two songs weren’t as popular as “All Along”, these two songs nevertheless are worthy inclusions on a best-of remix album of sorts. Gone are the light piano riffs and in come the heavy bass and electronic synths to make this song are ‘garage-band’ sounding track…doesn’t sound bad, it just wasn’t what I initially thought a reimagining of “Daylight” would sound like. Nevertheless, the power and essence of the song is still there, as we are reminded through this track that we ought to ‘…hold on, daylight is coming to break the dawn, daylight is coming…’ This is the promise we ought to hold onto- that even in the darkest of nights, we cling tight to the hope that things will always get better, no matter how long it takes. “Hope”, the quasi-title track, is slowed down in tempo and given the raw electric guitar treatment as the keyboards are almost erased from the track…thus when you hear the original and the reimagined version, it’s like hearing two different songs- that’s how drastic the music change was. The message is still the same though- that hope, or more importantly, the hope that God places in us when we can’t place in us ourselves; isn’t giving up, even if we believe at that moment that hope seems far away.
Electronic drum beats are the foreground instrument on “Guide You Home”, a ballad originally on Daylight EP, as David Zach and co. encourage friends in discouraged situations, that ‘…if you’re a ship and you’re lost in the ocean, I’ll be the wind in your sails give you motion, I will guide you home, if you’re too far out that you can’t see the shoreline, I’ll be the light house shining in the night time, I will guide you home…’, and while the song was also slowed down to be a ballad in this new recording, I have come to love both versions of “Guide You Home” (this version and the last), and is certainly one of the most underrated songs of 2010. “Crystal Sea”, “Resuscitate” and “Better Than Life” have all been chart-topping songs from their 2012 album Resuscitate, and are all worthy inclusions to be reworked and placed on this album. “Crystal Sea” doesn’t stray too much from the original and speaks about the day when we will see Christ face to face, while “Better Than Life”, without the piano that created a uniqueness in the original version, sadly makes this updated recording pale when I compare it to the original recording. Not to say these new renditions aren’t great in and of themselves, yet when I compare them to the original versions, some are an improvement and some just aren’t…“Better Than Life” is just one of those songs that didn’t ‘wow’ me as much as others. “Resuscitate Me” on the other hand builds on the original- and though the structure of both this song and its original are the same, this version of “Resuscitate” is more raw, real and honest, while the other seemingly had to fit into the confines of what a major label would allow. Being independent means that the band can decide what they wanted the song to sound like without having someone else assert their opinion- on “Resuscitate Me”, we could see a freedom in the band’s recording that wasn’t there on their 2012 album. Kudos to the band for taking a leap, and it paying off, with one of the rockiest tracks on Hope’s Not Giving Up!
“Come Up” and “Statues” were from the band’s first album Rip Open the Skies and are the most ‘similar’ if you would call it, when comparing these two tracks to their originals…considering both these albums, Hope’s Not Giving Up and Rip Open the Skies are both recorded independently. “Statues” calls for us to not become comfortable in this life, otherwise we will become statues in a figurative sense- stuck in one place and always living by routine; while “Come Up”, containing one of the most grunge-like unpolished electric guitar undertones I’ve ever heard in any song whatsoever, encourages us all to come up from our own routines into something bigger and greater than ourselves. Or, as David Zach puts it, ‘…I’ve found that there is quite a difference between barely getting by and truly being alive. One of the hardest parts about being fallen is knowing at times that I’m really missing the mark and missing the point. So this song is an anthem for those who know they are fallen but want to come up. I find hope in the words of a man that turned down the glory of the kingdoms of this world and later said ‘I will show you greater things than these’. Here’s an honest attempt follow in those footsteps…’
“Jack’s Song” is the album ender, and as radio friendly as I have heard any song on radio recently. A song with an acoustic framework, David Zach sings to his own son, as we see that often a son has a lot of questions for his father. Being young means being inquisitive, and “Jack’s Song” attempts to answer such questions, or even if the questions aren’t answered, at least a dialogue is happening. The bridge is the most poignant, as the band declare outright, to ‘…keep on running…til the race is won…’, encouraging us that this life we live is indeed a spiritual battle, and as much as we know on the surface that “Jack’s Song” is sung from David’s point of view to his own child, this song is just as much God singing to us.
Remedy Drive are back- back to their indie roots, and they have shown us how their most popular songs would’ve sounded like if they had not gone the label route. Still, Remedy Drive’s presence in the Christian music industry is sadly underrated and even underappreciated, and while I myself am sad to say that I haven’t listened to as much of Remedy Drive’s discography that I would’ve liked, this album has definitely piqued my interest to go back and listen to more of the band’s discography. From songs like “Resuscitate Me” and “Hope”, to “All Along”, “Crystal Sea” and “Guide You Home”, this is a must have for any Remedy Drive fan, or any fan of artists like Lifehouse, Switchfoot, The Fray or Kutless. Well done David Zach and the band for such an enjoyable album. Can’t wait till the next one whenever that arises!
3 songs to listen to: All Along, Guide You Home, Hope
RIYL: Switchfoot, Colton Dixon, Skillet, Kutless, needtobreathe, Lifehouse, The Fray