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How To Kill and Be Killed DVD
Artist: Derek Webb
Label: INO Records
Time: 16 tracks

There is a deeper level to Derek Webb’s music.  It comes through on many of his songs.  It’s a rare combination of honesty and truth.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Keith Green and Rich Mullins.  His words penetrate revealing what we sometimes miss.  The truth strips away illusions, laying hearts bare.  It convicts of sin.  
How many artists ever use the word “repent?”  It’s the theme of one of his songs.  How many would call themselves a whore or write a song called “I Want a Broken Heart”?
It’s good to be challenged and confronted with the truth.  That seems to be a missing element in CCM.  Listening to Webb is a little like having a prophet in your midst.  But he’s unassuming.  He’s just being honest and wants to avoid being a hypocrite.  He lays his heart bare in songs, telling the truth as he sees it.  
It’s not always clear though what he is saying.  I feel like there was more than I was getting.  You have to listen carefully on some songs to understand what they are about.  It requires a little more from listeners.  His songs not only invite but also require repeated listens.  
After opening with “I Want a Broken Heart,” Derek and his band rip through the Cademon’s Call classic “Thankful.”  Paul Moak smokes on guitar, as he does throughout. Cason Cooley, formerly with The Normals, is terrific on keyboards.  Webb and all the band members perform superbly.  These guys are great together.  Webb acknowledges that he was fortunate to be able to play with the same four guys that helped him make “I See Things Upside Down.” 
I would describe the style of music as alternative folk/pop/rock, similar to Cademon’s Call.  This will probably appeal most to those who enjoy alternative rock.  The band performs a total of four Cademon’s Call songs, much of the aforementioned CD and some songs from Webb’s earlier solo work.  
It’s a minor thing, but I did not like the film editing.  I could have done without the intentionally blurry shots.  A frequent distorted view looking up at Webb and his microphone is annoying.  There are some poor angles, and the camera is actually bouncing in one shot.  I realize that it may be purposeful, but I think it detracts. 
The title of the DVD comes from a line in a song.  I think it has to do with letting God show us how to put to death our old selves.  
Bonus material includes an insightful interview with Derek on several subjects.  Webb definitely has something to say, and he says with it great music. 

Michael Dalton
October 23, 2005

Imagine a band and singer that sounds like a cross between the Ragamuffin Band and Over the Rhine.  Picture Rich Mullins' rough honesty melded with Linford Detwiler's lush keyboards and organ.   How to Kill and Be Killed, Derek Webb's first DVD as a solo artist manages to do all of these things and more.

The band that played on Webb's most recent recording, I See Things Upside Down, is intact for this concert, and proves that the recording was not a winder of gadgetry and trickery – the sound from the CD is reproduced and improved upon.   The Over the Rhine connection should come as no surprise, as Will Sayles appears on drums, and Paul Moak plays everything other the kitchen sink.  Cason Cooley (formerly The Normals) plays keyboards.  Videographers Jimmy Abegg and Ben Pearson form the Ragamuffin contributions.

Concert highlights are "I Want a Broken Heart," with a spacey intro/outro bridge, a heartfelt rendition of "Reputation" that showcases Cooley on a Hammond B3 that rivals Phil Madeira's works, and "Medication", which rises above its simplistic lyrics with a swelling musical coda that is somewhere between U2 and Radiohead.   A few old Caedmon's Call tunes are featured for longtime Webb fans as well.

Webb's trademark is his openness.  Like Keith Green and Rich Mullins before him, he reveals a few of his own wounds in song, and the results are both painful to hear and convicting in their honesty.   The bonus interview is refreshing as well, as it reveals Webb's convictions in not playing the CCM numbers-driven games.  He stresses trying to people Jesus rather than trying to "look like a Christian."   He speaks of "Christianese" as a divisive tool, doing more to separate those outside the church from those inside.  He is uncompromising regarding Christian art as well, demanding that the church's art be of excellent quality, if it is to be taken seriously by the secular world, and points to the Renaissance, where Christian art took the lead and set the example in music, painting, and sculpture. 

How to Kill and Be Killed is for fans of Webb, but also for those looking for truth behind all of the facades and nice appearances that are marketed to the CCM radio audience.   The only complaint that I have with the disc is the exclusion of "T-Shirts" from the setlist, a song that dovetails nicely with Webb's sentiments.

Brian A. Smith
23 October 2005



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