Album Review :
The Museum - What We Stand For
By Jonathan Andre in Reviews | Comments closed
Artist: The Museum
Title: What We Stand For
Label: BEC Recordings
Release Date: 5/6/14
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- I Will Love You
- Always Yes
- Forever and Ever
- Your Love Never Fails
- Carry My Heart
- Give Me Faith
- Saved My Soul
- What We Stand For
- Forever Free
- Take the World
Based out of Atlanta, Georgia; The Museum are back with their third album What We Stand For which releases on May 6th. Famous for their singles like ‘Never Look Away’, ‘My Help Comes From the Lord’, ‘Love Will Find You’ and ‘In Jesus Name’; this new album, from a group that has been touted (by me) as the CCM version of Hillsong, is a step in the right direction since their 2012 album My Only Rescue. While their previous album and the collection of songs didn’t really gel together, with songs blending into one another and nothing much standing out, except for radio single ‘Love Will Find You’, One Sonic Society cover ‘In Jesus Name’, and 2011 radio hit ‘Not For Sale’; their new album is much more cohesive, even with the presence of four cover worship songs (‘Give Me Faith’, ‘Stronger’, ‘Your Love Never Fails’ and the revisited hymn ‘Take the World’). There’s no denying that this group has passion and heartfelt honesty throughout all their albums, yet I felt their second album was settling into mediocrity, with songs seeming to be ‘quick’ to write with themes seemingly re-hashed from other songs by other artists. Despite the mishap which was My Only Rescue, The Museum have been able to turn it around and give listeners a solid worship album, on the path of something Aaron Shust would do, or something Kutless would do currently. While not bad, the album still doesn’t have a wow factor that settles on albums like new releases from Jason Gray, Peter Furler, MercyMe or Switchfoot. This new album has a great number of good points (like the violin in ‘Give Me Faith’ and the percussion undertones on ‘Your Love Never Fails’), and while this band has a long way to go before they can be considered within the leagues of artists like the Newsboys, Casting Crowns or MercyMe; their enthusiasm in What We Stand For, coupled with a clear focus within the songs, makes this album a standout in May for anyone who loves CCM/worship in the realms of Kutless, Aaron Shust or Sidewalk Prophets.
‘Saved My Soul’ is the first single from What We Stand For, and from first note, the electric guitar grunginess indicates that we are going to hear something that’s uniquely different than the radio friendly pop melodies The Museum have been giving to us from their previous two albums. While a ‘oohhh ohhhh’ backing vocal to start off the song doesn’t sound that exciting, lead singer Ben Richter leaps into declarations and powerful assertions as this 3:07 fast paced melody becomes possibly one of my favourite originally recorded song by the band since ‘Never Look Away’. As Ben recites to us that we ought not to forget the day Christ saved our own souls from the eternal damnation we were rescued from; ‘Saved My Soul’ pushes all the right buttons for what a great CCM/radio song ought to be- an easy accessible chorus lyric, engaging instrumentals, and a poignant subject matter that is never covered enough in current worship songs. Electronic and engaging, ‘Saved My Soul’ and the choreographing of it has been able to pave the way towards some other great songs, namely the covers of ‘Give Me Faith’, ‘Stronger’, ‘Take the World’ and ‘Your Love Never Fails’.
With a powerful electric guitar riff (and sounding nothing like the original when you first hear it), ‘Your Love Never Fails’ is possibly one of Jesus Culture’s most famous songs ever, with Ben delivering a great job at the cover, even though at times, it sometimes felt like the band was unintentionally trying to speed up the song in some parts. While of similar length to the Newsboys’ pop/dance version of the melody on their 2011 album God’s Not Dead, Ben and the band relay to us a version where the acoustic and electric guitar shine, as we see something more akin to the original (which in my opinion, is still the best). ‘Give Me Faith’, on the other hand, has been given a great makeover with strings and light percussion, as The Museum forge a version that I reckoned was more enjoyable than the Elevation Worship original. A powerful song that is a prayer towards God for more faith, more hope, more insight and more of God’s way of looking at things, the strings are a great addition, and while different and hard to be adjusted to straight away, does enhance the song as we use the introduction of the strings as a tool to reflect on God’s grace and trust towards us. While at times in the bridge I felt the electric guitar starting to drown out the vocals a little; the message still remains the same- that as God gives good gifts to His children, we are at rest knowing that whatever happens, God will give us the faith and courage to believe that He will use each circumstance we face to shape and grow us into individuals more reliant on God and His presence.
Both ‘Stronger’ and ‘Take the World’, the last two tracks of the album, end it in great fashion as the focus turns to Jesus and the cross, and places great emphasis on songs, rather than the artist. The beauty about covers are that it takes the focus off the artist and places it on the song and its power to inspire and encourage whomever hears it- which is true of both these aforementioned tracks. Not as fast as the Newsboys cover and not as slow as Dara Maclean’s version; The Museum have created a sound middle-of-the-road cover that sadly doesn’t rise to the standards set by both Dara and the Newsboys, even though it delivers in the enthusiasm department. Nevertheless; The Museum set off to give us something poignant and emotional, with keyboards, light electric guitars and Ben’s distinct voice being the anchors of the song and standout portions, vocally and musically. The topic of us being stronger with Christ is something for us to hold onto, when things are great, but also when things are tragic as well. The subdued ‘Take the World’ is a modern take on the hymn ‘Give Me Jesus’, and to finish the album on this emotive and heartfelt note that ‘Take the World’ brings to the fore, is one of the many reasons why What We Stand For on the whole is more enjoyable than the band’s predecessor album. As we reflect on the notion of surrendering everything to Jesus, because of how ‘…in poverty or life’s great riches, give me Jesus’ precious name…’; this is a rendition that I can commend The Museum for, even if on the whole I felt the original versions of the songs (and the hymn) were more enjoyable to myself.
The Museum also invite us to bask in a collection of newly recorded songs on the album as well as these covers, and just like any other CCM/radio friendly worship band, The Museum on the whole has a solid originally recorded song line up, with some standing out more than others. The title track ‘What We Stand For’ is a call to action by Ben to those listening as we soak in the words and reflect upon the theme of standing up for something and wonder to ourselves- what do we stand up to, and whether our own convictions will stand firm in the midst of trials and uncertainty. A song that emphasises evangelism at its core, Ben declares out, with the acoustic guitars, that we ought to ‘…let your Spirit pour out like a river on us, this is what we stand for…’; as we see that when we decide what we indeed stand for and against, our faith cannot be shaken when it comes to circumstances that need us to call upon what we believe to see us through. ‘Forever and Ever’ means well when Ben and the rest of the band give us a different spin on the Lord’s prayer, but when the chorus is just ‘…glory and honour, forever and ever…’ repeated a few times, then you know that they’re in a place where enthusiasm and passion is as great as it has been, but the themes and lyrical poignancy seem to leave this band with nothing much to give them the ‘wow’ factor listeners and reviewers are longingly waiting for.
‘Forever Free’, the better of the songs that incorporate the word ‘forever’, is a moment of tranquillity and radio friendly-ness as we hear possibly one of the most lyrically sound and identity building songs on What We Stand For, as The Museum present a theme of us declaring our praises to the one who makes us forever free. While the bridge of the track seemingly sounds similar to the chorus of ‘Christ Be All Around Me’ by Michael W. Smith (and also on his new album Sovereign releasing May 13th); it is the chorus that stands out the most, as we contemplate the encouraging words of how ‘…by the power of Your Spirit sin is powerless and poor, every chain is broken down, oh Your light shines out the darkness, by the power of Your grace I’m forever free…’ Starting the album with two unique tracks in country-acoustic melody ‘Always Yes’ (a song that confirms the truth that we will be standing on Christ Jesus because of the defeat of the enemy), and the acoustic and reflective ‘I Will Love You’ (a heartfelt song that declares our love for God, and for each other, in the poignant words of how ‘…I will love you, with all that I am, I will save you…when your world’s caving in…’); The Museum continue to deliver inspirational CCM/worship melodies, and will be perfect for anyone who loves an album fit for great reflective and individual worship.
Overall: Even though we fellow believers are fully confident about the band’s motives behind the album, The Museum have created a musical collection that is clever musically and has a few decent melodies- a step up from last album, yet not necessarily one that will make a lasting impact on myself in months to come. The Museum have been around for a while, and you would think that their songwriting skills would’ve excelled, giving us songs that impact us just like how songs like ‘Oceans’, ‘Rooftops’, ‘Closer’, ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘Chasing You’ impact us. Nevertheless, this album ought to still be listened to, just so that listeners can go through the process to see if The Museum and their music is within their musical tastes or not. With standout tracks ‘Give Me Faith’, ‘Always Yes’, ‘Saved My Soul’ and ‘Forever Free’ highlights in an album that’s a certain purchase for fans of their first and second albums; The Museum’s third album, to be honest, still hasn’t really lived up to a 2-year-or-so wait. While the album is better than My Only Rescue, it needs to be better if it wants to break away from the Hillsong similarities I often place on them. If you’re looking for the contemporary/pop version of Hillsong, you have found it in The Museum!
RIYL: Kutless, Casting Crowns, Aaron Shust, Sidewalk Prophets
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3