- Light It Up
- The Proof of Your Love
- Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)
- People Change
- Middle Of Your Heart
- Love’s To Blame
- Fine, Fine Life
- Pushing On A Pull Door
Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone are For King and Country. They are also the younger brothers of seasoned Christian music veteran Rebecca St. James. Releasing their debut album, Crave, on the last week of February 2012, via Fervent Records; many critics and listeners alike are linking their particular sound to that of The Fray, The Killers and U2. This is an album that has made waves in both the Christian and mainstream music industry and with dynamic electric guitars, electronic distortion, keys and strings mixed ingeniously in each track, this album is clever and inventive in that it incorporates many sounds for it’s many fans, of rock, pop, CCM and the electronic genre. Crave is not your cliché album, and I was very intrigued to listen to it, to see if their sounds on the album were similar to that of their sister, Rebecca.
‘Busted Heart’ is one of my favourite songs from the first half of 2012. Through the combination of electronics, strings and accordion, a vulnerability and openness is created as I listen to this song. Both Joel and Luke have shown, through this song alone, their heart; even if it is busted. There is a line in the song that is my favourite; Luke’s cry for grace ‘…I’m screaming out Your name, don’t let me fall on my face, I’ve got a busted heart, I’m in need of a change, yeah, I’m desperate for grace…’ Every time we fall and fail, we can call out to our Saviour; He does answer, helping us up and giving us the strength to carry on. As Joel explains, ‘…there comes those defining moments in each of our lives where we so severely need someone to hold on to us…[we are all]…busted to some degree…’ This song is a realisation, that we cannot do everything on our own, wanting someone to hold onto us during the times when we need it the most. This song is more than a melody; it is a hopeful cry to God to love us, even with our busted hearts.
As well as ‘Busted Heart’, many other songs from Crave have shown me this band is not a typical band that will fade away after this album. ‘Proof of Your Love’ is worship in action. More than that, this anthem full of strings, percussion and dynamic drums, is 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 in song. As Joel sings out in the chorus ‘…so let my life be…the proof of Your love, let my love look like You and what You’re made of, how you lived, how You died…’ I am reminded that everything that we do needs to have purpose, done in love. Without it, the motivation stirs us to become like Christ, then we have nothing. The title track, the last on the album, is a soft acoustic piano-driven song that is just as emotive as it is challenging. The phrase ‘…hope is what we crave…’ is universal. We need hope that every day will work out the way we intend it to be, and when it doesn’t we need the assurance from the Lord that He has everything working to His glory. As simple as asking for hope, this song’s response from listeners should be far from simple. As we listen to this track, we should understand that though hope is universal, God is the Only One that can give us true and everlasting hope.
‘Middle of Your Heart’ is a rock anthem at heart, and speaks about surrendering control of our lives and giving them to the God who can shape it into the wondrous masterpiece that He can. This is surrender at its purest form, and as the Smallbone brothers proclaim, ‘…this is where I admit I don’t know how to handle it, life in all of it chaos, You are my only hope…’ true surrender is shown. This isn’t a form of weakness, but rather, it is knowledge, that without God by our side, our lives will continue to be in chaos. ‘Fine Fine Life’ is a catchy electronic song full of heart, passion, and energy. It is a reminder to us all that life is beautiful and how some people can forget this during the busyness of their lives, or when they ‘…feel asleep in a casino…’ However, it does seem to fit slightly out of place within an album full of hope, love, and relationships, with God and each other. Nevertheless, ‘Fine Fine Life’ is an impressive addition and shines musically. With lots of strings, rising percussion, keyboard and drums, ‘Pushing on a Pull Door’ is another track about surrender, even more revealing than ‘Middle of Your Heart’. We need to understand to let go of our lives, and give control over to the one who made it, when all we are doing is ‘…pushing on a pull door…’. Sung from God’s point of view, this is a reminder to the control freak in all of us to just give everything to God, knowing that ‘…I’m your wake-up call…’
There are a number of relationship songs on this record and ‘Missing’ is one of them. As Luke puts on his ‘RED’ hat, he sings with the backdrop of electronics, percussion and keyboard. On a surface level, it’s about someone who has made his life better, but for some reason, they’ve gone away. This song is a response to this event. But as I reflect on the lyrics ‘…If I could tell you now I’d tell you how my would is dark now that you’re missing…’, I can see that it could be a conversation between us and God, knowing that the relationship between Christ and the church is similar to between a man and a woman. This is a song that makes people think, to see what relationships they have taken for granted, and to rectify and reconcile wherever needed. ‘People Change’ is another relationship song, more optimistic than ‘Missing’. ‘Missing’ is a lament, however, ‘People Change’ shows the power of changing, to be the man that God created us to be, for the relationship. With tremendous pleas ‘…Will you be there if I call, will you leave me in the rain, if I say it’s all my fault, will you still walk away…’, together with great vocal harmonisation, dynamic drumming and electronic keyboards, the passion and honesty is shown in this ‘what if’ song, showing the hope and promise that the relationship is not lost forever.
‘Sane’ is For King and Country’s version of Tenth Avenue North’s ‘You are More’. Written about someone who has lost their innocence when it comes to sexual purity, this is a redemption song, and with strings and keyboards overlaying some of the most poignant lyrics on the album ‘…scared that your secret might come out, and you’re gonna lose the life you’ve got now, caught in the loop and it winds you back but anyone can change…’, this can relate to anyone. We all have those moments when we question, unsure about whether what we’ve done or haven’t define our character and our values. God is calling to us, reminding us that when ‘…all of the pieces crumble down…freedom can be found…’ As we understand our identity is in Christ, we can be free from all the chains that hold us down.
Overall: As Luke explains, ‘…we want to deliver a message that is about believing in something much bigger than oneself…You can confidently go through the ups and downs in your life because you know that life isn’t all about you and what you do but rather the hope and salvation of Christ…’ And with that, I enjoyed this debut project along with many debuts out in the last 6 or so months (Jamie Grace, Lindsay McCaul, Moriah Peters, All Sons and Daughters). This 11 track musical journey has heartfelt lyrics, enriched by confronting questions, and through these musical techniques, I know that my Saviour is always there, even when I don’t feel him. Though not a perfect album, this is a solid one from two Australians that will definitely go far in the American industry!
RIYL: The Fray, Downhere, Jars of Clay, Superchick