There’s no way around it – Newsboys have a great way with both catchy songs and a powerful sound that takes them up another notch. This release sees Furler and Joel back among the newer line-up, hence the title.
Label: Fair Trade
Time: 10 tracks: 37 minutes // 15 tracks: 59 minutes (Deluxe)
The band stood out from the start, because of their jargon-free approach to song lyrics and witty sense of humour. It probably helped that they were largely Australian, so remote from the Nashville bubble, but Steve Taylor’s writing also made that difference.
Over time they changed members almost as regularly as the White House change senior staff, and then gave into the worship song machine that diluted their uniqueness, until they became a shadow of their past selves.
When ever-present drummer, writer and front man Peter Furler gave up live work a few years ago, ex-dc Talk singer Michael Tait took over. But this release sees the return of both Furler and long-time bassist Phil Joel to form a united Newsboys past and present – hence the title.
The blend of voices works beautifully, with Furler giving it that classic newsboys sound and Tait adding grit. The band says that that title is also more than just a handle to name the album by; it’s faith lived out. With singers past and present sharing the role, it says something to a polarised world about working together and sidestepping ego.
The song “Worth Fighting For” sums it up well – and is a return to the original lyrical style that set them apart – as Furler and Taylor write,
“Love your neighbor as yourself, treat each other kind.
Read the words that Jesus said and then let 'em free your mind.
Forgive the ones who've hurt you most; don't tarry in the past.
Buy the truth, never let it go - it's the only thing that lasts.
Self-assured we pick our fights, drawing red lines, demanding rights
To find out some fights aren't worth fighting for
I wanna throw off the burdens that will not budge,
Cut loose the anchor of every grudge
I wanna feel the rush of what's worth fighting for
.... And if our faith can't find a way, what's that say?
And if our hope can't help restore, what's it for?
And if our love can't unify, tell me why”
Not everything meets this standard, as they include shallower songs, such as the paint-by-numbers lyrics of “Never Setting Sun” or the glib “Fearless,” two of several written by others outside the band. But even when they do this, they take the songs to a higher level than others might, thanks to the energy of their distinctive sound. And given the writing power within the band, I’d like to see more Furler / Taylor compositions.
Overall, there is barely a bad song on the main collection (the deluxe version is unnecessary); instead, you get a whole batch that will have you singing and playing air guitar or air drums. It’s danceable worship.
That power, and their knack for displaying as many hooks as a hardware store, never come through more than on the fist-punching “Only the Son (Yeshua)”. Beware – it might have you singing, “Only the Son has the keys to my heart's door, my heart's door” for hours on end.