Showbread – Who Can Know It?

By Joshua Hedlund on November-15-2010 | Filed under Reviews | Tags : , , , | Share

Showbread – Who Can Know It?
Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/54
3.7 (23 votes)

Band: Showbread
Title: Who Can Know It?
Label: Come&Live
Release Date: 10/16/2010
Reviewer: Joshua Hedlund

Tracklisting:

  1. A Man With A Hammer
  2. I Never Liked Anyone And I’m Afraid Of People
  3. Dear Music
  4. Deliverance
  5. The Prison Comes Undone
  6. Hydra
  7. Myth Of A Christian Nation
  8. You’re Like A Taxi
  9. Time To Go
  10. The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

A lot has changed for Showbread in the last year. They fulfilled their obligations with Tooth & Nail and decided to take a leap of faith with former label friend Chad Johnson and his ministry-focused non-profit “label” Come&Live! They’ve sounded pretty excited about their new direction and new album in all of the various interviews, tweets, and assorted marketings that have issued forth in recent months. We know Showbread doesn’t care what we think of their ever-evolving sound, but just what does that sound, well, sound like?

At first impression, Who Can Know It? doesn’t sound very exciting at all. It’s not just that it’s “slow” with “no screaming” – Showbread has done plenty of ballad-like songs in the past. What’s odd is the lack of emotion that seems to accompany some of these new ones. Many of the first few tracks are pulled along by plain synth and guitar chords that show none of the raucous talent we’ve come to expect. And I’m not sure what happened to Garrett’s keytar. (I guess dwindling to a four-piece has its challenges.) But the passionless vocals of Josh Dies are the most baffling. He sings in the low part of his range, restricting himself almost monotonically to very few notes, and the words come out so slowly that it’s hard to imagine much interest behind them.

It seems Showbread almost takes a strange delight in frustrating their fans’ expectations for the sake of creating the art that they want. That’s something I respect to a point, but it doesn’t mean I automatically like listening to it, and it’s hard to enjoy some of these songs when it feels like the band itself isn’t very excited about them.

By the time I got to the third song, “Dear Music,” where he tells the recipient, “I’ve lost all interest in almost every thing that you do,” I really believed him, wondering if this was all some painful, deliberate ruse that wouldn’t stop. I thought it felt like the last song on The Fear of God if it were to drone on for twenty or thirty minutes, or, for you older fans, like the first verse of “Matthias Replaces Judas” endlessly idling, never revving up and into the climax. I knew they were going for ballads, but I felt like “Sing Me to Sleep” had more emotion than any three of these tracks put together.

But now for the good news. The lyrics are strong enough to make you forget about the musical zombie. Recurring Showbread themes of falling and forgiveness are prevalent in songs like “A Man With A Hammer” and “Deliverance.” “The Prison Comes Undone” poetically declares, “I hear when Jesus tells me that I need to bite my tongue / and my teeth, they try to cage it, but the prison comes undone.”

Furthermore, the album gets better as it progresses. “You’re Like A Taxi,” a metaphorical message for Death, creates varying atmospheres as the band’s harmonies beautifully sing, “When I die, whatever you might say, don’t say I’m gone / Gone is not the word for someone who finally found his way back home.” “Time to Go,” with its lullaby-like piano lines, may actually be the prettiest song Showbread has ever written. And they’re still doing that Epic Closer thing (some things haven’t changed). “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” sets its pace with a cool electric click as it kicks into its elongated eleven minutes about sin, truth, and redemption (what else?).

The only slight misstep is the provocatively-titled “Myth of A Christian Nation,” which is not so much a debate about the beliefs of our forefathers as it is a jab at the modern antics of uber-patriotic Christians. I understand the sheeplike misunderstandings that they’re reacting against, but the biting satire feels incomplete, like it’s criticizing the unloving without loving them back (something Josh has talked about struggling with and striving for). Besides, the kinder lyrics of “Deliverance” are sufficient for that message.

But the album as a whole doesn’t feel so bad. And on repeated listens, even the beginning doesn’t sound so slow or painful. Check out that slapping bass! Check out that mid-tempo rhythm! And, hey, maybe Josh’s notes actually span a whole octave on a couple songs! It’s a bit like the audio version of stepping into a dark cave on a bright sunny day… once my senses adjusted to the new landscape, I could suddenly “see” all the interesting details. How did I ever think the second track was boring? How did I ever think the repeated ending phrase on the third song was emotionless when it’s got these cool multi-layered harmonies going on? Suddenly the zombie was a healthy, living human – albeit a calm and tranquil one.

This isn’t totally uncharted territory for the band, either – remember “The Sky (Alpha)” from Anorexia? If you like that song, it’s a good mood-setter for enjoying this album. I still think Josh’s vocals just don’t sound as good when he limits himself like that, but Showbread proves they can get away with it for at least a whole album. And there must be something catchy about the melodies because they’ve been getting stuck in my head.

Overall: I guess I just don’t really know how to respond to this new, strange creature of the Raw Rock Ballad. Unlike the instant punk-rock catchiness of the last album, this one’s going to take a few months to sink into my being and lead to an overall worthwhile opinion. Maybe taking their sound and stretching it through an awkward time warp is the most brilliant thing they’ve ever done, and one day I’ll say it’s their strongest work yet. There are already fans declaring it their worst and best album to date, respectively, but what Showbread album hasn’t been treated to that reception? If you’re lamenting this album’s non-intensity maybe you’re missing the point that this album is not supposed to be about intensity. Rather than remake the same album, Showbread snatches whatever genre they feel like and makes it their own. You’ll just have to decide for yourself if you like this one.

Showbread - Who Can Know It?, 3.7 out of 5 based on 23 ratings

Click here to list all the current reviews by Joshua Hedlund

About the author Joshua Hedlund

I like listening to music and trying to promote the stuff I like (@joshuahedlund), and sometimes I play piano and try to write stuff (I just picked up the accordion!). I married my lovely bride Emily in October 2010. We want to be a RYFO house one day but for now just support bands through going to shows and doing interviews and whatever else we can! View all posts by Joshua Hedlund

49 Responses to 'Showbread – Who Can Know It?'

  1. Available tomorrow (Nov 16) for free or donations at http://comeandlive.com/downloads. The band is also expected to unveil a new online store, presumably where you can order a physical copy of the rumored deluxe edition with 5 bonus tracks. At least that’s what @RawRock told me.

  2. Steve says:

    Great thorough review. I’ll have to give it a try tomorrow. Never been a fan but willing to give them another shot.

  3. The Swede says:

    How can the rating be so high when you say that it will take a few months to get into it?

    • I guess I’m giving it a slight benefit of the doubt. I honestly want to give it a 6 and a 9 at the same time when I think about my reactions to this album but of course that’s nonsensical. Or maybe I’m just being ironic.

      But seriously… Most of me thinks it’s more brilliant each time I listen to it. And part of me still think it’s kinda boring.

  4. Todd Labbe says:

    Am I missing something? I never found a long track at the end of Fear of God. Or are you implying that “Until We Meet Again” is a VERY slow song that plods along and feels like forever even though it is only 5 min?

  5. Matt says:

    dissapoint of the year for me.

  6. Chad Verrill says:

    For someone with a huge Showbread tattoo on his leg, this is hard for me to say: This album is really not that good. The music is so simple. I know that is not saying it is terrible it is just not that good of a listen. They lyrics are amazing: Josh is a gifted poet. Nothing else is even remotely close to the high standards that Showbread has set for themselves.

  7. This is one of my favorite releases of the year. They made the album I’ve been wanting to hear for years, whether by Showbread or another band. Some fuzzy guitars and lyrics set in reality with a punk rock attitude. I love it.

  8. taborrr says:

    I just can’t get into any of the new Showbread. ‘No Sir’ will always be a classic in my books. Ever since I saw Showbread 5 years ago I was a fan, they were chaotic, loud, fast and beautiful all at the same, I might like the new stuff for what it is, but this is not Showbread to me…

  9. A Quiet Wolf says:

    I got an advance digital copy from the Kickstarter campaign, and I really agree with this review. I haven’t been a Showbread fan for all too long, but I know enough to have opinions. Comparing this album to earlier stuff, I feel like older albums were, speaking on the music particularly, someone addressing a crowd and being very vocal, while “Who Can Know It?” is a more one-on-one, sitting across from each other at a table at midnight whispering a serious conversation. I’ve come to enjoy “Who Can Know It?”, and I think it’s a nice change of pace, but I hope they mix it up with the chaotic loudness we know and love.

  10. Kevin L. says:

    There’s a wonderful interview with Josh here:
    http://decapolis.com/culture/1080

  11. Len says:

    I still like their steelroots release the best, just saying.

    followed by No Sir… after age of reptiles came out…. I stopped paying attention to them.

    I still love these guys though…. and if their tour/video show ties in well with this, they might get some new(er) interest.

  12. Joshua Clark says:

    Nice review. I’ve never been too big of a Showbread fan, so it’s not sounding like this album is really going to change much, I’ll still check it out though.

  13. Brandon says:

    These guys all seem like wonderful people, I would never bash them in a personal manner. I’ll have to give this a listen tomorrow when the album goes up for download on Come & Live before I can comment on the music. I still need to buy The Fear of God because I don’t own it.

  14. james says:

    when i fist got this album i was soo happy it made my nite i lasting to all of it also i lasting to all of there albums i got it did not dispany me at all at fist i was like thanking there going to be srcoming but to me its worship in a way all i haer so far by ppl i dont like this album or its not hard or its not raw eonge or what and what relly ?? ho honsty who gives a care those guys put there haerts togother made this album all i care is about in music is if there doing it for God and doing it to worship him not makeing money on it or to be frumas

  15. Thanks, Steve, Josh, Brandon, others… Glad you’re still interested in checking out this album after reading my review, ha. If you’re going to get this album tomorrow, whether you’re a fan or not, just be sure to lay aside any pre-conceived expectations and just take in the lyrics and music for what it is. Hopefully you won’t be too bored :)

  16. Rusty says:

    Dies has a great interview over at hopecore.com too, it takes a bit to get into but you can’t deny josh’s talent.

  17. HAYNGMAN3000 says:

    it’s something new. and i like it.

  18. just.me.brian says:

    i downloaded this this morning and i really like it. Old showbread is awesome because of the messy, raw, screamy sound it has but this is just as good. It’s like punk/diy worship. I like how it sounds and i love the lyrics. It’s growing on me with every listen.

  19. Forgetting what Showbread has done in the past I enjoyed this album. It had some interesting sounds, great lyrics and a pretty chill vibe.

  20. josh says:

    This is easily their best. I love the punkyness of their old albums, especially No Sir and Age of Reptiles, but just because this one is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. I don’t understand why some people criticize the band no matter what they do. If they made another album that sounded like No Sir people would call it a cop-out. I understand the issue with the vocals though, they are relatively un-dynamic. But I can forgive that for the really unique instrumentation, with the guitarmonies and fuzz pedals, synths, it’s all really great stuff.

  21. Nicholas says:

    Well there is no denying it. Showbread kills it yet again. The best record they have put out to date. Joining Come & Live is the greatest thing they could have done. Showbread is the greatest band of all time, and this record blows my mind on first listen.

    I love Nihilism just as much as the next guy. That record rocks harder than any other album of its time. But Who Can Know it? is the true Showbread, and if you disagree with me than you are forgetting what band this is. Showbread is going to write the music they feel God calling them to write, and each record will sound nothing like the last.

    Thank you Showbread.

  22. schlottermann says:

    I’m only on the second song right now. I’m loving it. I also think the artwork included is very great.

  23. Hate how it’s already sold out on their store. I need a physical copy of this. >_<

  24. Greg says:

    Michael – I think comeandlive.com is offering limited copies for sale still. Click on the downloads link (like you would be downloading the album).

  25. Chip says:

    When you said “on repeated listens” and went into your description, I could identify completely. The first time through (especially after the third song) I was thinking “What is this?!” …BUT after really listening to (reading) and digesting the lyrics and giving the record another spin or two at the same time, I know get it!! And I really like it!! Sure I miss the aggressive sound that I have grown to love with Showbread, BUT this is an awesome collection of music. I think I even understand the vocal style Josh is using here, now considering that it fits with the overall message of the songs. After all, this record isn’t about us or even about Showbread. Its about the message God has put on their hearts to deliver. Who can fault them for that? I think if you put away any selfish desires of what you want Showbread to sound like, and just enjoy this record in the spirit it was intended, I think that you will love it and be blessed by it. Give it a chance…and about 4-5 listens all the way through while reading the lyrics. You may not want to crank it up in the car, but you will respect and appreciate it. I for one am happy that Showbread is never boring!

  26. Didymus says:

    this is definitely my favorite Showbread album. i think because i went into it without any expectations [primarily because Showbread said to do that], i was able to enjoy it immensely without lamenting the lack of energy, screaming, etc. – i’ve always like the calmer, softer side of Showbread anyway, admittedly.
    Regardless, give this album time and I think you just might see how amazing it is.

  27. John xPSx says:

    Listening through it for the first time.

    I usually don’t care about/am not easily impressed with lyrics. But, I have to say I actually like the lyrics on this album. Course it’s got good music backing, which is important, ha :P

    I just hope this isn’t Showbread’s new sound. Like, I assume they’re gonna keep doing like they’ve done and change their sound with every album. But then again, they have signed with Come & Live, and from what I can tell Come & Live is mostly just soft worship music. So that kinda worries me. =/ Though, if it is their new sound, at least it’s still recognizably Showbread, and still really good. Far better than anything else out there these days, at the very least. (course I hate just about everything else that’s out there today, but that’s still saying something) I’d give it an 8 out of 10, on first listen.

    Random Questions: I notice there’s no back cover art in the PDF file, does the physical CD have any? Also, anybody know what the bonus songs on the special edition are? And if it’s worth paying $25 ($30 with shipping?) for it along with the other stuff that deal comes up?

    • Tim says:

      Come&Live! is incredibly diverse. From instrumental music to really heavy rock to the alternative worship… If you tried every band you would see this.

    • John xPSx says:

      Oh okay. I was just going off the I Am Living sampler from a while back, which seemed to be all soft worship music, from what I can remember.

    • Ian says:

      Admittedly, Come&Live! does have a lot of soft music, but they also have artists like I Am Alpha & Omega. So they are diverse, so I don’t look for the label to tell Showbread to sound a certain way. So. Yes.

  28. Chris says:

    “A Man With A Hammer” has an Action Action and eventually Fountains of Wayne feel to it. It teeters on the edge of being an anthem but never really rocks out. It drones on with great vintage synths but little else. Kinda blah and I like the vocals just enough to listen to it again. There is a decent proclamation of Jesus dying for everyone, ransoming them by love. I usually prefer this message coupled with what we who are reborn are told to proclaim: repentance. 7/10

    “I Never Like Anyone And I’m Afraid Of People”: There is a real 2003/2004 vibe to this song. I listened to a lot of artists and saw them live who sound kind of like this. It seems to be from the view point of Jesus, talking about meeting the Devil in the desert (where he lives, according to this song, which is incomplete). The pianos have a real 80’s feel. It gets pretty aggressive after the silence and gets pretty. 9/10

    “Dear Music”: One of the things people seem to claim about Showbread is that they are so original. Now, this is the third straight song that has reminded me of other artists. That doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, this may be why this is the first album of theirs I’ve really listened to all the way through. That said, this one is really too slow, though. It has a great, extended intro but I will skip this one. I like the retro vibe but am not sure how I feel about melancholy, if dreamy, worship. So far, this album has reminded me of Action Action, Fountains of Wayne, Weezer, and Jimmy Eat World. 6/10

    “Deliverance”: There’s a Velvet Underground or Interpol feel to this song. The lyrics are really broad generalizations, even if I agree with some of them. The drums are really marching like a little 60’s/early 70’s rock song. Even at the end, when it goes down to just Josh’s voice and the guitar, I still think he’s making a big assumption when he assumes that a. all picket signs are sinful and b. all those who use Jesus’ name are repentant, redeemed, regenerated Christians. 8/10

    “The Prison Comes Undone”: A slow, mopy song. I do think the droning, Jason Martin-style vocals work good for this song. 5/10

    “Hydra”: This is another vindictive admonishment of some anonymous person. The topics they are addressing are beaten dead horses, so I really don’t identify with them or pay attention to them when I hear them again. This is a good mix of post-rock power ballad with militaristic, new wave drums and vocals. 7/10

    “Myth of A Christian Nation”: Intentional or not, as the criticism and anger are ramped up, the intro seems to announce it with a snarling, dark riff. I am against the foreign policy of Bush but It is preposterous to lob bombs about abusing Scripture without detailing which ones and who did it. The aimless criticism is a waste and, unlike the last song, this one doesn’t even rock. 3/10

    “You’re Like A Taxi”: Sometimes when someone uses a distinct, emotionless vocal style, some listeners like myself will grow tired of it by the eighth or ninth track. On this song, I’m not tired of it but the rest of the instrumentation almost begs for more emotional, theatrical soaring vocals. As it is, it’s kind of an emotional, dreamy song. It’s repetitive – and as it goes on – the vocals fit more. It seems he’s singing to death or the Devil but he goes from calling death “it” to pointing at a “you”. 7/10

    “Time To Go”: There’s a really light, ABC-style piano, and a deeper one in the background. This is a decent song about transformation, being the prodigal son, and God’s unchanging nature. “To know you, I need to forget what I’ve been taught”. It feels like a more listenable Fastball ballad. Ha ha ha. 6/10

    “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things”: Truth and doubt are explored in here and Josh doubts even the lens with which he’s been viewing God and regards the truth as being that Jesus loves him the way he was, the way he is, and the way he will be. That is an interesting assessment but perhaps incomplete, even if perfect in its focus. This song feels a little like an Interpol or Starflyer song. 6/10

    Overall: I might put some of these songs in a mix for rainy days, but there were only a few tracks (“Deliverance” and “I Never Liked Anyone And I’m Afraid of People”) that I played again after listening all the way through. I generally wanted to put on something uptempo and fun after listening the first time. Definitely worth the free download because it’s sonically both simplistic in design yet fascinating in execution. Your view of the vocals will likely determine how much you listen. 6.5/10

  29. DEAN says:

    SHOWBREAD does no wrong

  30. Lucas says:

    Coming from someone who has only listened to one Showbread album (The Fear Of God) I’m really enjoying this one so far!
    I must say Josh Dies is a wonderful songwriter, though I admit I was taken aback at first by the bluntness of the lyrics “A Man With a Hammer” but from what I’ve read he’s always been blunt. Guess I’m just late to the party. :)

  31. “Myth of a Christian Nation” is the best song on this piece.

  32. Nikki says:

    Your review kind of stunned me. Mainly because I thought the album still screamed Showbread to me and then to read that people thought it was boring, it just set me back.
    I read an interview with Josh (http://decapolis.com/culture/1080) and he said that this album wasn’t supposed to be about the raw energy that the previous albums had attained. He said it was purely the message. Showbread has always had a strong message and has produced it with crazy energy and it’s always been fantastic. I think this time they wanted people to see that you don’t have to put so much extravagance into the music to get the message across.
    I think that people don’t see that and they’re basing their like or dislike of the album purely off of past Showbread music when they should be completely unbiased whilst listening. I loved all the previous albums, and I love this one as well. When you first listen, you have to disregard all feelings you may have had towards them and just think of this as something new. It totally changes your perspective of the album. Instead of comparing it to previous works, you have to take it in as something new and base your decisions off that. Otherwise, I think people miss the point.

    • Chip says:

      Absolutely have to agree with you Nikki! Although on the very first listen, I didn’t get it. Now I do! Awesome music. I am really liking this release.

    • Tim says:

      The music of the album isn’t boring per se. It’s good music. The vocal delivery is very lifeless though. But I am confident the album will grow on me because everyone keeps saying it will. I am willing to let the lyrics sink into my heart and really hit me.

      I expected the album to be a challenge. And it is. Usually I’ll listen to an album nonstop when I first buy it. This one I have listened to four times, which is nothing! Again, the music doesn’t shock me nor do I find it offensive. It’s the vocal delivery that is, in places, relatively boring. I don’t like screaming music that much either so it’s not the lack of screaming.

      Just throwing my perspective out there because it slightly differs to the perspective you were criticising.

    • “When you first listen, you have to disregard all feelings you may have had towards them and just think of this as something new. It totally changes your perspective of the album. Instead of comparing it to previous works, you have to take it in as something new and base your decisions off that. Otherwise, I think people miss the point.”

      I completely agree with you, and I hope I got that point across at the end of my review after I talked about my first impressions. Regardless of how strong the message is or how cool the different music is, I still think the vocals are a little weak and I simply don’t enjoy listening to this album all that much (compared both to previous “energetic” Showbread albums, and to other “slower” albums that I really enjoy). But it is a piece of work all on its own, it has good songs with great lyrics and it grows on you, and it’s being given away by a band that really believes in what they’re doing… all in all a very positive thing, which is why I rated it as high as I did despite my dissatisfactions.

  33. Nikki says:

    I definitely understand where you’re coming from with the lifeless vocals. But honestly, I don’t think that there could be a better delivery. Mainly because the change in inflection would change the emotion. I think Josh wants people to get the emotion from the lyrics not from the sound of his voice. It’s almost like reading a book, you’re supposed to derive the emotion because the author isn’t there to tell you what it is.

  34. MattR says:

    I’m not gonna lie,upon first listen this album…is weird. I know that they wanted to shock people, like they do with every album. But…wow. This was unexpected! The first song was strange to hear for me. HA! People will probably hate me or agree with me judging by some comments but that is my opinion. It is a shame too…I recently got into these guys with The Fear Of God cd. I really love that album…I even now have all of their Solid State/Tooth & Nail albums. I like them all, but I like No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical and The Fear Of God the most. I will give this new album another listen…hopefully it isn’t such a snoozefest like it was for me for the first listen. Not quite “raw rock” as what they say they are. Lyrics seemed quite raw, but not the music. Sorry…just my opinion. And yea…I like the more metal-ly side of Showbread and sadly it is lacking. Not gonna like, dudes got an awesome screamy voice! Yea yea…insert hate comments. That is just my 2 cents. I don’t want to give a rating yet…hopefully it will be better for me next listen.

    • MattR says:

      I meant to say “I’m not gonna lie, I like Josh’s screamy voice!” I just can’t believe he wouldn’t scream to make it “raw.” I kind of also wished that they used those gang vocals like they used in Let There Be Raw off of The Fear Of God! That song owns! HA!

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