Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Music Monday: "As Family We Go" needs more time in the incubator

          As Family We Go was released in August 2015, so this review is a little redundant I admit. However, heavy promotion is still taking place for this album, so in internet terms, this isn't completely without place. Regardless, I am a huge fan of Rend Collective, and I couldn't let this release go unacknowledged.

With that out of the way, I should warn you, I didn't like As Family We Go. Not even a little bit. Again, I want to emphasize how much I like this group and their music. I've travelled across country, through traffic jams, at the crack of dawn, to see Rend Collective in concert. I've indignantly defended them against "haters" (and oh, how I hate myself for using that term unironically, on the internet of all places), and recommded them to anyone who would listen. And yet, I really, really don't like this album.

Without sounding too much like a hipster, there's always been an anti-mainstream charm to Rend Collective's music. There's something warm, intimate, and nostalgic about their indie, folk pop, authentically recorded in living rooms, or around campfires. It's the lack of polish, and the unassuming fun and reverence about Rend Collective's previous albums, that have, up until this point, set them apart from the over-produced and self-aware mainstream.

Barely a year in between their previous release The Art of CelebrationAs Family We Go sounds terribly rushed. The band announced a few months before this release, that their studio had been broken into, and as a result the band lost some valuable equipment and songs they had been working on. It's speculation at this point, whether or not this incident affected the finished product of As Family We Go, but, to me, the album sounds like it needed more time in the recording process. It baffles me, why the band felt the need to release anything so soon at all. Maybe Rend Collective felt an obligation to fans, or were receiving pressure from their new label, Capitol Christian Distribution.

Rend Collective is a band made of people who can't take themselves seriously, giving their music a warmth, and mischief, that you will never hear from say, Chris Tomlin, or even Tenth Avenue North. However, with this album, Rend Collective have turned up the fun, about 60 notches (so much so that tracks like CelebrateYou Will Never Run, and The Artist sound more like Wiggles tracks), and taken away most, if not all of the warmth and intimacy of their folk sound, and opted for a more polished, synthetic product. This makes As Family We Go, sound disjointed, because mainstream worship albums tend to take themselves very seriously, something that Rend Collective is not really capable of. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Rend Collective, you just can't!

Even thematically,  As Family We Go fails miserably. The theme of unity, and family within the body of Christ, is not a new one for the group, as they've explored this with Campfire. In fact, they've formed their whole music philosophy on this theme. So, it is shocking to find As Family We Go, almost completely void of it. Really, the album seems more of a repeat of themes so beautifully explored in The Art of Celebration.

What really lets this release down, is that for all it's studio polish, and grandstanding, As Family We Go, is exceedingly dull. With the exception of Free As A Bird, You Will Never Run (which, for all it's zaniness, grows on you), Every Giant Will Fall, and a bluesy, reimagining of Nothing But The Blood called Royal Blood, the album is a bit underwhelming.

I so very much wanted to love this album, but in my opinion As Family We Go is a misstep. I don't think we've yet heard their best work, and here's hoping Rend Collective's next album will spend a bit more time in the incubator. I'm willing to wait longer for something truly special. Lord knows, Christian music needs it!

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