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Falling on Deaf Ears
Artist: This Beautiful Mess
Label: Deep Elm Records
Length: 11 tracks, 46:47

Despite the fact that there are still two months of music ahead of us before the end of the year, I am convinced that This Beautiful Mess will be right there in my list of top albums for the year.  Hailing from Holland and released on Deep Elm Records, this band casts off the clichés of emo-dom and creates a fresh new sound grounded firmly in an indie-pop sensibility.

Melodic and noisy at the same time, This Beautiful Mess has created an album focusing on the themes of sin and redemption and the struggle to live a life of faith, without being preachy or sounding like some sort of derivative CCM. 

The first song on the new album, "Black Is the New Red," sets the tone for the disc right up front:

 Here I am, but where are you
 I'm a jar and I'm empty too
 I forgot how to pray to you
 Buried my treasure in the ground
 Are you near, is it far?
 Can I get to where you are?
And in song after song these same sentiments are expressed, sometimes in gut wrenching detail.  In the slightly funky "Cacophonic," the singer cries out:
 I believed in you daddy, but lately it's so hard to keep the faith.
 ...Can you take anymore of this, can I still be forgiven?
In "Clean" there is a revelation of the atoning work of Christ:
 You went out there on your own. 
 You went out there to carry the weight.
 And nobody here goes free.
 You went to wear the crown of thorns.
 To throw the first stone at yourself.
And later:
 Every finger is pointing at you.
 Everything is accusing you.
 Everybody is needing a scapegoat.
 So you got out there.
 You're hit in the face.
 You're spit in the face.
 Now where is your God?
 And where is your grace?
This album includes songs of praise (Soundtrack of My Life), and original Psalms (Sola Gratia: Only Grace).  On "Advent Hymn," the band presents their adaptation of Psalm 40 that while not as anthemic as the U2 song "40," is certainly just as sweet.

Arjen Van Wijk presents the poetic lyrics in an emotionally provocative way, and combined with the music, creates a beautiful atmosphere that sounds great the first time, and grows on you with each new listen.

Ken Mueller 11/5/2001

There are many ways to spend three-quarters of an hour.  I can't think of many more gripping ways, emotionally, than listening to this disc through headphones, concentrating on the textures painted on the musical canvas.

This Beautiful Mess is a Dutch group which has a deep art-rock sensibility to their type of guitar-based rock.  It fits in much the same vein as Radiohead and Luxury, with maybe a nod to Sixpence (the first thing which popped into my mind on hearing the band's name); a combination of solid pop music and intricate layering which reveals more to the listener every time the album is played.

The lyrics begin as those of one who is in the midst of the struggles of life.  This is the voice of Job, crying out for hope in the midst of despair.

Here I am, but where are you?
I'm a jar and I am empty too
I forgot how to pray to you
Buried my treasure in the ground. (from "Black Is The New Red")
As the album develops, we hear different textures to Arjen Van Wijk's voice, as he laments the loss of faith in the midst of the struggle ("Cacophonic"):
I believed in you daddy.
But lately it's so hard to keep the faith.
I am too rational
To stroll upon the waters.
I relied on you
But tonight's rush hour in the sky.
I lost your frequency
In a cacophony of prayers.
But then the grace comes to the aching heart. "Clean" recounts Christ's sufferings on the cross, after which the "Soundtrack of My Life" is one which is "full of your almighty glory" and the grace rains down (in "Sola Gratia").  The response of the freed soul is to ask that God would kill all the idols in his life ("Kill"), as he begins to sing a "21st Advent Hymn."

The album as a whole is structured to flow from end to end, almost in narrative form.  It concludes with an instrumental of the "Last Day's Embrace," a time which will be beyond human description.

The production work on this album is virtually flawless; the playing solid, and the vocal work well suited to the style of the music.  This album is simply a beautiful piece of art.  To try to describe it any further would be to do it an injustice.

Alex Klages 12/1/2001



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