Listening to this album is a bit like going to the World Cup final and only watching the half-time entertainment. Sure, the half-time game between 10 year olds is fun, and they may actually produce a decent game. But it pales in comparison to the ingenuity, strength and excitement of the professional game. The half-time game is a sideline to the main event.
Fill Us Again hooks you instantly with a guitar riff that plays on the joy of Jesus breaking our chains. The chorus is about how “we’re coming alive” and is from a position of through whom, and how.
Coming Alive is therefore unusual. Most of the songs on this live worship album present a single basic truth but don’t expand on it. In Look to Jesus a gravelly voice enthuses us to, well, look to Jesus but doesn’t go into detail about why, or how we can do so, other than the refrain “He won’t let you go.” For all the length of the track (8 and a half minutes), I have no better idea of who Jesus is or what he’s done and am therefore no more inclined to look to Him.
The repeated refrain might be intended to help us meditate on the idea of looking to Jesus, to help it roll around in our hearts a while. But without knowledge of who it is we are singing to, the idea remains just that. Furthermore, as the song doesn’t give us knowledge the singer’s passion and guitar solo unfortunately become the focus rather than the medium through which we can praise.
As such, that song is one of a few which feel half-baked.
In Saved, there is an understanding that Jesus died for our sins but with the line “not because of what I’ve done/ but because of what I’ve not.” It sounds good. But it is not the whole story.
I think this lyric is trying to get at the fact that we cannot achieve our own salvation. Jesus didn’t save us because of our good deeds.
But Jesus came precisely of what we did do – followed our own desires and what we didn’t do – follow His commands. This may sound like splitting hairs. But we perform sins of commission and omission. We sin by doing things we shouldn’t, and not doing things we ought. And Jesus came not because of that, but for our forgiveness, because he loves us.
This is where their Kyrie Eleision is right. It does well at unpacking all the things we need forgiveness for: “for the things we’ve done and left undone”, for idols, other loves, fears. It is a humble, honest, repentant psalm.
However it should have stopped three minutes in. After five more minutes of “forgive us, we pray” I couldn’t help remember of Jesus’ warning that some people “will not be heard for their many words.” Is God more likely to forgive for us asking a number of times?
On their album Kyrie Eleison: Anchour Sessions the repetition of “forgiving God, forgiving us” at the end of the song serves as a powerful reminder and meditative tool of the fact that he has forgiven and is forgiving us. On this album, however, it detracts from the song and doesn’t add anything.
Fill Us Again mixes metaphors of the Holy Spirit and leaves me confused. The premis of the song is about Christ filling us up again. I remember a Scripture Union leader giving the cororolly of her own heart, which as a child had a hole in which required surgery. as she put it, in the same way “our hearts empty. We need our love tanks filled up.” If left there, the metaphor works. But this song seems to suggest that we need periodical topping up of the spirit. I don’t think this is what Scripture says. Jesus promises his followers the Spirit. Period.
Musically the album is very accomplished, with very passionate singing from a range of voices, and lots of winding guitar solos and improvised worship.
This is a double edged sword. Done well, I believe it can make us worship more fully. However, many of the tracks sound the same with their crescendos. I’ve had to work hard to get the names of them clear and remember which track is which!
It is very easy to just tune out of the album, letting the quieter, more repetitive songs become background music rather than worship.
But it doesn’t even work as background music. All too often I have had to change the volume on my stereo to compensate for different loudness in tracks. At one point, I wondered whether the album had stopped. About five minutes later it turned out it hadn’t. Some parts the voices are so incomprehensible as yanny/laural. How can we worship if we don’t know what to sing?
In short, this is a fairly plain album which sometimes excites with the music, and only rarely excites by showing us the truth of the cross. It doesn’t paint the whole picture of Christ and in parts gets it wrong. It shows what could be done in worship. The other version of Kyrie Eliesion is brilliant. If we look to this album for worship, it is ok, but we miss so much of the real, strong, exciting stuff to be found elsewhere.
As an example, take Steven Curtis Chapman’s new single Remember to Remember, also released on Friday. As with Fill Us Again, I’ve listened to this repeatedly. Unlike Fill Us Again, it excites me every time.
Instantly it reminds me of God’s repeated calls in the old testament to build an altar to Him, so that we don’t forget what he’s done.
The idea of ‘remembering to remember’ sounds funny until you remember how easily we forget who God is and what he’s done.
It’s instantly catchy. It’s a little country in the way Sheryl Crow is. It does therefore sound a little early 2000’s. But does that really matter when the chorus is as strong as:
“Remember the way he let you up to top of the highest mountain/ Remember the way he carried you to the deepest dark/ Remember his promises for every step of the road ahead/ Look where you’ve been and where you’re going and remember to remember.”
If that sounds as if we don’t know who to remember:
“Till I’m home I’m resting all my hope and trust/in the only one who’s name is God with us.”
If this is a fore-taste of his next album, I’m excited!