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Artist: This Beautiful Republic
Label: Forefront Records (2008)
Length: 13 tracks / 49:22 minutes
Last year’s debut project from Toledo-based quintet This Beautiful Republic, Even Heroes Need a Parachute, although commercially and critically well received, was largely a case of potential going unrealized. The emo-tinged leadoff single, “Jesus to the World,” stands as a perfect case in point. While certainly no stranger to Christian hit radio, the song’s lack of a truly engaging melody arguably ensured that it climbed no higher than the bottom reaches of the CHR Top 30. Follow-on singles like “Right Now,” while equally pleasant, were nonetheless rendered mostly inert at the hands of their overly bleary-eyed delivery. It was only when the band revved up the tempo and threw caution to the wind, as they did on harder-driving numbers like “Something to Deny” and “Going Under,” that listeners caught glimpses of a group capable of truly delivering the goods.
Taking over where “Under” and “Deny” left off, the new album’s leadoff cuts, “Pain” and “Surrender Saved My Life,” each match their potent predecessors one for one in terms of enthusiasm and grit. Even more spirited are the intermittently hardcore/screamo-inclined “My God” and “No Turning Back,” both of which feature what are easily frontman Ben Olin’s most forceful vocals to date. Indeed, one listen to his throat-shredding growls of “Give me liberty or give me death!” on the latter should be sufficient to convince all but the most hardened of naysayers that he truly means what he says. Perhaps most surprisingly though, particularly in light of the last release, Perceptions’ most compelling moment comes at the hands of “For the Life of Me,” a beautifully-written ballad that surveys the concept of salvation with a poignant mixture of amazement and gratitude.
The new record, it should be said, is not entirely blemish-free. “Change the World” comes up conspicuously short on both the musical and lyrical fronts thanks to its clichéd wording and almost painfully listless delivery. Objectively speaking, though, “World” represents the album’s only out-and-out misstep; a glaring contrast to the freshman outing where such gaffes were as much the rule as they were the exception. Also in its favor, Perceptions goes its forerunner at least one step better in terms of both overall lyrical depth and the band’s willingness to explore more complex musical textures and time signatures. Fans of the first release will likely need little coaxing when it comes to picking up the sophomore project. Those tempted to dismiss the Beautiful Republicans after surveying their less-than-stellar debut, on the other hand, would be well advised to go out on a limb and investigate the far-superior second effort.
Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth (08.20.08)


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