Album Review :
The Classic Crime - How To Be Human

By in Reviews | 16 Comments

Label: BC Music
Release Date: April 28th, 2017

Tracklisting:

  1. Introduction To Dance
  2. Holy Water
  3. Not Done With You Yet
  4. Ghost
  5. Driftwood
  6. Wonder
  7. Spare Time
  8. Shades of Green
  9. More
  10. The Third Way
  11. Hold On Let Go
  12. Black & White

It’s been nearly five years since mainstay rockers, The Classic Crime has put out new material. For avid fans of the band, it was an interminable wait. We can rejoice because the hiatus is over and we have a new album from one of the few remaining bands from the pop/rock, Tooth & Nail era. So the question lingers in the air – was the wait worth it? Here’s why it’s a frustrating “no.”

After a forty second intro track, How To Be Human kicks off with their first and for obvious reasons, controversial single. Holy Water is a catchy song that sounds like it would be on their third LP, Vagabonds. Fans can argue forever on theology, but the song is a good first track with its upbeat verses and seamless transitions into a chorus that can remain in your head long after the song ends. Not Done With You Yet, another single rears after Holy Water. The message of the song is encouraging and inviting, but musically, it’s not really interesting until the end when vocalist Matt McDonald nearly returns to his Silver Cord-esque scream.

Ghost is a forgettable track for the same reason that too many songs on the album are; it’s slow and doesn’t go anywhere. TCC has always done slow songs on their albums tremendously well. Their debut featured, Headlights, Silver Cord had R&R, Vagabonds had My Name, and Phoenix had Dead Rose. So it’s strange to see so many slow songs that are, lacking a better word, boring.

Following Ghost, is another slow and laid back song that doesn’t fit the “forgettable” category. The lyrics are reminiscent of old school Classic Crime. A constant driving beat from the drums keep the song moving at a fast enough pace, and ambient guitar and keys create an atmosphere of reflection and thoughtfulness. It’s only a shame that it was paired with Ghost. Driftwood is good by its own merit, but pairing it with another slower song, the album lags at this point despite Driftwood’s well executed sound.

Bringing us to the best song on the album, Wonder lifts the middle section with a beautiful track. The song speaks of getting caught up in theology and fact finding with Christianity, all the while losing sight of the “wonder” of God. It’s a rare enough topic but one that plagues many people given the times lately. Sadly, the middle of the album sags afterwards. Spare Time is yet another mellow track going relatively nowhere. At this point in the album, you have to ask yourself if they’ve just gotten bored of rock. The humdrum tracks that anchors the album cause McDonald’s vocals to fade into the background. With such a distinctive voice that shines with both range and harshness in yells and screams, we don’t see the best of him through the album. Shades Of Green while being upbeat, is a filler track. The endless repeated chorus gets old quick and again, doesn’t go anywhere.

Finally, the latter half of the album is lifted similarly as Wonder rose the middle. More, is a song that reminds the listener of The Silver Cord era. We finally hear heaviness and Matt McDonald’s signature scream. The Third Way is another rocky song with a chorus that evokes head bobbing and singing at the top of your lungs in the car.

This may sound odd, but a great track is Hold On Let Go. The song clocks under two minutes, and is almost entirely acoustic guitar. The only line spoken in the song is the title itself, repeated and repeated. It can be incredibly meaningful to anyone. A meaning most will take from it is, hold on to your beliefs, and let go of everything else. It’s a quick and deep song that stays with the listener. Black & White closes the album with an endearing line in the chorus: “Savior, save me.” Then in the midst of the mellowness, McDonald screams harder than we’ve ever heard before. “Am I alone?” It catches our immediate attention but soon dies after, closing the album in a myriad of strings. It would have been nice to hear more of that passion and intensity throughout the album rather than just in the last minute.

So where does this leave us? The pros to the album is in the production and thoughtful lyrics. The production is top notch, with all the proper amounts of volume levels, bass, treble, and all that good stuff. The lyrics are never pointless or just put on a song because they needed words. McDonald has put out his most impressive lyrics in the history of TCC. However this brings on the cons of the album. Lyrics lose their value if over half the songs on the album are beyond boring and rather lazy. The listener loses sight of lyrics and grows in frustration with the repeated mellow songs with rare escapes to a better sound not seen too much on How To Be Human.

Fans are still bound to love this album, although probably just because their favorite band is back, not because the album is actually that good. It’s great to see the band is still kicking. When it comes to the mid 2000’s era of Tooth & Nail rock bands, The Classic Crime is one of the few remaining sparks lingering in the fire. Unfortunately, this album is largely forgettable with a few great moments.

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16 Comments on "The Classic Crime - How To Be Human"

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David

I disagree with the 3/5 i give it 5/5. Lyrics. Music. Songwriting. Catchy/sing along. Emotional. Real. personal fave is I’m Not Done With You Yet super cool lyrics about questioning life/God and God’s love and how He feels about us

Daniel

Ouch! Harsh review, but lots of truth to it. I love the CC. I was waiting for them to beat Phoenix but this album wasn’t even close.

ThePimento

I totally agree with this review. This album is musically boring. I’m sure the “die-hard” fans will defend this album left and right, but the truth is, it’s just boring. I backed the Kickstarter and even paid more for the color vinyl, so it’s not like I wanted this album to fail. This is the first album where I want to sell the record after listening to it once.

BenjiKunz

I keep seeing “boring” tossed around with this album without much explanation, but I find this album much more interesting than the last two because it doesn’t stick with the same tempo/structure the whole time.

Daniel J
It’s subjective, but I kind of get what people are saying. I’ve spun this album several times now and nothing much grabs my attention apart from the song ‘Not Done With You Yet’. On his podcast, Matt talks about intentionally focusing on grove (building songs around the bass & drums) and then adding atmosphere (layered guitar sounds) for this record. I think they accomplished this and the album does sound good… it’s just that this is not what a lot of people listen to TCC for. The thing about their sound I always liked most was Matt’s raw vocal emotion… Read more »
Xottam47

Sorry Zac but I have to completely disagree with you on just about all of this. I’ll save everything I have to say so I don’t make a long post, but Ghost is anything but forgettable. I find it to be powerful and the best slow jam they’ve ever done.
Being nit-picky…at the end of “Black & White” he’s saying “Am I alone?” not “We’re not alone”.

Curious, how would others categorize the theology on this album, assuming it fits a particular category?

BenjiKunz

I actually don’t think the theology fits a particular category, which I think is the point. It sounds like a very uncertain record. Which I have to add, I really appreciate that the searching on this record isn’t cynical or combative as it tends to be for other artists. The lyrics are a lot more humble and earnest than I expected them to be after “Holy Water” was released and actually made me see that song in a different light.

Thank you for clarifying. You make an interesting point, that there does seem to be (at least) two types of searchers: the humble and earnest ones, and the haughty ones. I think sometimes those within the Christian art subculture kinda toe the line to be honest. I know we weren’t talking about them, but upon hearing “Holy Water” I immediately thought of Gungor. I honestly don’t even know anything about Gungor, but when I saw Michael’s tweet saying that he was tired of songs that “talked about God murdering his son” or something to that effect I just don’t really… Read more »
BenjiKunz
Maybe there’s some of that beneath the surface, but it’s a lot more inward focused than outward focused. And when it does look outward, I resonate with Matt MacDonald’s struggles with the oppressive side of the conservative church even though we probably fall on completely different planes theologically. And man. I’ve never stopped listening to a band for any reason, but I just can’t hear a Gungor song the same way after those Twitter posts. It’s not just that he denies propitiation, that’s an understandably tough doctrine, but he talks like it’s flat-out evil. Not only is it a denial… Read more »
BenjiKunz
LONG-WINDED POST AHEAD! BEWARE! I disagree on a lot of points in this review. I’ve had a few weeks to let this album simmer and I think this is the best album they’ve released outside of The Silver Cord. Easily. It’s so much more dynamic and musically interesting than anything off of Vagabonds and Phoenix, which stuck to a pretty comfortable rock sound. I like both of those records (especially Vagabonds), but listening back they don’t have the lasting value the first two albums did. Neither one is very layered and interesting beyond the catchy hooks. How To Be Human… Read more »
BenjiKunz

Holy cow, that was long. So sorry. This is taking back to the glory days of IVM when I’d write novels on the daily.

Noah Hardwick

Excellent review. For all the issues I could take with this album, the one that really turns me off the most is how forgettable it is. It’s not bad, just boring.

Bang

I really like the lyrics throughout the album, but the music hasn’t hooked me yet. TCC’s albums often take a few plays before I can really soak them in, though, and I generally appreciate them more over time. I just find so much of the music on this album to be purposeless, and I think the mixing is a bit off and focuses on the vocals at the expense of the guitars.

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