Word Label Group
Release Date: January 31st 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Never Change Your Mind
- Maybe It’s Ok
- Never Stop Singing
- I Need to Feel It
- Knock Me Down
- Always You
- Come See (Glory Hallelujah)
- Power (Acoustic Mix)
- Maybe It’s Ok (Neon Feather Remix) [feat. Steven Malcolm]
We are Messengers are a band that are the unassuming type- no grandiose presence on social media, no song that charts real high on the Billboard charts, basically a band that has been ‘there’ since their inception in 2016, and their self titled album that brought with it songs like ‘Point to You’, ‘Magnify’ and ‘Everything Comes Alive’. Lead singer Darren Mulligan and the rest of the band have crafted a music career full of hope and honesty, as we see, in my opinion, one of the most underrated new-ish bands to ever emerge into the spotlight within the last few years. Originally from across the pond, Darren, his wife and family moved from Ireland to come over the U.S., and what eventuated from there was a band that is by far one of the most interesting and heartfelt to have occurred within the last few years. Fast-forward to 2019, and Darren Mulligan and the band, unveiled to us Honest EP, a follow-up to their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2016. On the EP was the song ‘Maybe It’s OK’; arguably one of the most emotive and vulnerable songs I’ve ever heard in a long, long time. Now here we are in 2020, and the band just unveiled to us their second full-length album in Power, of which ‘Maybe It’s Ok’ is the only inclusion on the album track-list from Power. Standing at 12 tracks long, this long wait from fans of this Irish-American group has been well worth it, as Power stands tall with its poignancy and heartfelt nature- these songs are by far some of the most encouraging yet equally confronting, and a standout in 2020 in music- both Christian and mainstream!
‘Maybe It’s Ok’ was one of my favourite songs of 2019. And still is one of my favourite songs here in 2020 as well. It is heartfelt, poingnant and emotive, and really gets to the heart of what everyone wants to know- are we truly ok with being not ok? Is our obsession to be ‘perfect’ so that God can love us a tiny bit more, overriding the freedom that comes from surrendering to God and being allowed to struggle to be ok, in that freedom? I think so- we are all so focused on trying to ‘be’ better that more times than not, we try to do so in our own strength. When really, all we really need to do is to just be, just come to Christ as we are and acknowledge that yes, we’re not ok, and maybe we’ll never be fully ok, in the area in question. But to be humble enough to even admit that to the Lord takes courage and faith, takes humility and a sense of the love of God over us that we know that we’re unconditionally loved regardless. This is what the song is about, and I am thankful for Darren and co. for creating what I reckon is one of the most liberating and life-giving songs I’ve heard…ever since songs like Cory Asbury’s ‘Reckless Love’ and Lauren Daigle’s ‘You Say’. ‘Maybe It’s Ok’ gives us permission to not be perfect, because the pressure is insurmountable. It is a realisation that God knows our hearts, and that its ok to admit our faults and struggles, even to people that have just as much baggage and weights around them as ourselves. It is in the admitting that we’re not ok that we can really and truly find freedom, place down our facades, and live as if we don’t have to please everyone, ourselves included, as we travel through our lives knowing that life is a journey, rather than arriving to an ‘ok’ place where often because of life’s struggles, can be unattainable for many. Well done Darren for such a powerful song- the original as well as the remix featuring rapper Steven Malcolm- one that I’m sure will give people hope and encouragement as they journey on this life full of struggle. This is a must-listen if you need a life-altering change in direction, and we all need one of those, once in a while.
Throughout the rest of the album, Darren and co. have given to us life-giving themes and messages that’ll hopefully become a cataclysmic change in the hearts of many in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. Title track ‘Power’, both the original recording alongside the acoustic version (which in my opinion flows more organically and is my preferred version of the song) encourages us all to seek power not in the material things, but rather, power in the name of Jesus, and to submit ourselves to the calling on our life by Him, knowing that what we will can and does have effects on people and those around us- that what we say or do, or don’t do, will have a positive change or a negative one. ‘Power’ reminds us all that in Jesus’ name, His power is available, and as Darren says himself, ‘…the power of God is a bombastic thing. It’s a mighty thing. This is the king who throws the stars into space. We wanted to remind people that the same God that rose Jesus from the grave is alive in us. And our goal is to see the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead to rise. And we want to remind people that that’s all available, that is the power of God at work in us…’ ‘Love’, borne out of a time in Darren’s own personal life where he had to look at his past and see who needed to be forgiven and who he needed to say sorry to; is a tad under three minutes, but makes up for the lack-of-length with truth and power that’s present all the way through the song. ‘Love’ is a product of Darren himself forgiving even if forgiving itself was the harder thing to do- because once a weight of bitterness, regret and unmet expectations is lifted off shoulders in a metaphorical sense, there is a sense of relief that weights that we have been carrying around aren’t going to hold us back any longer. As Darren himself divulges, about a song that I believe will become as pertinent and poignant as ‘Maybe It’s Ok’; we see that the song ‘…came out of a defining moment in the last few years for me which was last summer when I realised there are many people in my life that I’ve hurt, or taken for granted, or offended. I wrote a list of around 30 people and I called them one by one [to apologise], and I wouldn’t let them leave until they’d forgiven me. That forgiveness just brought about an incredible period of joy in our lives and this contentment that’s led to a lot of the songs on [Power] being joyful, but also defiant in standing up to culture and saying [bitterness and hurt] doesn’t have to be the narrative. We don’t have to sit idly by while the world falls apart. We’re called to more than that…’
‘Never Change Your Mind’ features looping percussion and a passionate vocal from Darren alongside a gang vocal intro that reminds me of a similar intro to ‘Maybe It’s Ok’ (also by the band), as the song itself is one that gives God credit where He’s due- that He’s made His mind up in giving grace away freely to us in light of God’s Son’s sacrifice; and that once we realise that there’s nothing we can do or say or undertake to change such a fact, then we can rest knowing that it is not up to us, it has never been about what we have done to deserve such kindness and grace, but rather, the nature of God to give freely just because. ‘Never Stop Singing’ is the band’s first venture into the realms of worship music, and as Darren invites us to understand, the band themselves don’t really write worship music in the grandest sense of the word, and yet, they did write worship in this track- thus becoming special to the band themselves. ‘Never Stop Singing’ came about not because the band intentionally wanted to write a worship song, but rather, the band, in writing any song, this track inclusive, is a process that comes about in discovering and describing humanity and ‘…our relationships with each other, and with our God, who chooses to beautifully interrupt all of that. In ‘Never Stop Singing,’ there’s this line that talks about the holiness of God: I have this vision of the multitudes of the angels hanging around the throne of God, just singing, ‘You’re holy, holy, holy.’ I got to thinking what that meant; what holy means is to be completely set apart, to be completely other. When you go to the cinema, the movies, and you watch a movie on your own, and you’ve no one to share that with, it’s a less rich experience than if you share that with someone. And so when I sing worship songs to the Lord, I want to share that with people…’ The band continue to foray into the umbrella of worship music in ‘Come See (Glory Hallelujah)’, a song written via text amongst the band, writer Jonathan Smith and fellow worship leader/singer-songwriter Phil Wickham. Though worship music doesn’t come naturally to Darren and co. in terms of both writing and performing it, for this song and ‘Never Stop Singing’, the songs flowed- the album ender (before the alternate versions of both ‘Power’ and ‘Maybe It’s OK’) being one that invites listeners to partake in the ‘…strange, hard-to-believe story, about a God who would send his son…’
‘Home’ brings down the instruments to just the acoustic guitar, light keyboards and Darren’s powerful soaring vocals as the song itself touches upon this notion of home and what constitutes a home- where do we feel most at home? Is it connected to a place, or with the people we love? The song invites us to understand that it is indeed in Christ where we are the most home- that it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, or who we’re with, but we will forever have a home in Christ Jesus before anything else. The band continue to bring to us themes that tug at the soul and challenge our own psyches of what we understand about love, life and God, with ‘I Need to Feel It’ giving us a longing to feel the change we so desperately want, that knowing about Christ and knowing about Jesus isn’t enough- we need to experience a drastic change in our lives as well before we believe the things we hear from others about this living God who people declare to be Jesus. ‘Knock Me Down’, having some rock vibes a la Queen or even Led Zeppelin or Skillet, is very hard-hitting and powerful- something that the band themselves maybe wouldn’t have experimented on in years previous. The song itself is one that challenges the status quo of how we act when there’s a positive change inside of us. As Darren himself relays, ‘…the whole goal of that song was just to be mean. Just to tell every punk who ever thinks he’s ever going to tell us who we are again, or put a name on us again that isn’t true, that he’s not getting away with that. There is nobody can take from us what we found in Jesus. We have strength. We have courage. We have power. We have humility and tenderness. And no one’s opinion is going to change that…’ ‘Always You’ is the remaining song on the album; and is a personal one to Darren- a love song to his wife. It is asking the question of why someone, be it a spouse of even God Himself, why do they stick around in our lives when everything that we have ever said or done or have experienced, points for them to just walk away? What can we possibly do to make them stay alongside us? The song is a reminder of the unconditional love between family and the maker and creation, that it is in these difficult times of trials and tribulations that we can truly discover who loves us enough to stick by us regardless, and who walks away. A sobering song that is ever poignant as it is eerily haunting (in a good way), We are Messengers create a song that challenges our notion of believing in the other, even if they don’t themselves.
‘…sometimes I look at my life and I feel like that person, he is some kind of stranger. Like a man that I heard about but it wasn’t really me, and then all of a sudden in the present, your past can come to haunt you. That’s a hard thing to discuss, that even as a Christian, we still wrestle daily with our own flesh; we wrestle daily with the mess of our humanity and the mistakes that we’ve made. But God continues to prove Himself gracious, and merciful and kind, and I hope that we learn to treat each other with the same grace and mercy that we’ve received ourselves…A lot of your ‘Christian personalities’, or whatever you want to call them, I think people need to remember that we’re still really messed up. I don’t struggle any less with sin now than when I wasn’t a believer, it’s just now I tend to fall on the grace and mercy of God, or I tend to listen to Holy Spirit before I do something stupid. That’s not to say I don’t mess up – ’cause I really do, [but] we need to stop holding people to these perfect standards because there’s no-one good, and no-one perfect. It can be really difficult as a Christian, and especially one with some kind of ‘notoriety’ to actually just tell the truth about yourself; because [Christians] should be the most forgiving, kind, tender, wonderful people, but we tend to crucify people for things when Christ’s already been crucified for those things…’ It is in this quote that I appreciate this band all the more, and Power is just a reminder that such a band as this, a band that isn’t as popular as other bands like Tenth Avenue North and Switchfoot; that underrated bands can still produce albums just as engaging and poignant as any other. And with standout songs on Power like ‘Maybe It’s Ok’, ‘Never Stop Singing’, the title track and ‘Knock Me Down’ to name a few; Darren and co. have crafted an album that’s certainly rivalling that of Matthew West’s Brand New as my favourite album of 2020 thus far. Well done We Are Messengers for such a relevant and identity-affirming album, looking forward to listening to this album on repeat for the upcoming months ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Maybe It’s OK, Power, Never Stop Singing
RIYL: Delirious?, Philippa Hanna, Rend Collective, Tenth Avenue North