Step Up to the Microphone
Striking a happy medium between the “preach the faith” approach of Jars of Clay and the soft-focused spirituality of Live, Australia’s Newsboys give Christian rock a serious facelift on their seventh album. With the departure of vocalist, John James, drummer Peter Furler literally steps up to the microphone in his new role as the group’s primary vocalist (and producer of this record). The Newsboys mix the grand dynamic of vocal group harmonies with buoyant melodies and stylistic virtuosity that will attract both audiences seeking a message in the music and those who just want to rock. “Woo Hoo” harnesses the pop funk energy of The Getaway People, as the group bound forward into the jazzy title cut and on to the exuberant “Entertaining Angels” — a song that has “hit single” written all over it. Song lyrics avoid alienating the non-secular audience through liberal use of metaphor (i.e. in “The Tide,” God is the “safety in the storm”). Likewise, the upbeat “Deep End” suggests release through loss of the physical body with the lyrics “She’s done with living her life on the ground” and “No tragedy/ it’s like it’s over/ but it’s just begun.” Before things get too serious, a dub/thumb bassline spins the listener into the disco swirl of “Hallelujah.” Step Up to the Microphone is a jubilant celebration of life and a wonderful pop record.