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The Balancing Act
Artist: Cool Hand Luke
Label: Floodgate
Time: 14 tracks/70:51 minutes

Oh Cool Hand Luke. They are one of the most criminally overlooked bands in the whole "Christian rock" movement. The band became known as a post-emo low-fi pop group with a penchant for the odd yells and screams a la Sunny Day Real Estate. Eventually they released two critically acclaimed yet lukewarmly received albums on Floodgate records, Wake Up, O Sleeper and The Fires of Life. These albums were stylistically far from their early material, less abrasive and more melodic, but just as endearing.

And now this record: you can call it a best of, but considering even some of the most die hard Cool Hand Luke fans may not have heard over half of these tracks means that "retrospective" would be a better description. The Balancing Act combines some of the better songs from the band's two international full-lengths with many rarities from early EPs and the band's first, indie full-length, and three new songs for the heck of it. What we have here is a brilliant, purposefully wildly uneven collection of music.

Fans will be happy to see the old rare stuff. Songs like "10 or 40" are classics and live staples, but have not been available for over five years now. These older songs that are more punky and include well-placed screaming that sits uncomfortably with the newer material but show the band's path of maturation. A couple of them sound so much like Sunny Day Real Estate that the band could probably be charged with plagiarism, but are still a welcome listen. The three new songs are a tease: all of high quality and whetting this fan's appetite for a new full-length. The best of the three is the title track, which begins quietly building to a powerful climax that is, ironically, very similar to the sound of some of their earliest material.

This compilation comes highly recommended even if you own the band's two commercially released records (you'd still be getting seven songs you probably don't have). The most refreshing part of this band and their music is sincerity and integrity. If you've seen them live you'd know this. More CCM artists should take note of Cool Hand Luke, as should more listeners.

Noah Salo 


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