PeterF90What's the news, boys? Peter Furler goes solo with the help of some familiar friends...


On Fire
Artist: Peter Furler
Label: EMI
Length: 11 tracks / 39:49

Most people reading this review already know that Peter Furler recently ended his performing gig - both in and out of the studio - with newsboys, the wildly popular Christian rock/pop band. The release of Furler's first solo project, On Fire, actually tells us something about his former band that we were never quite able to put our finger on: what exactly was the sound of newsboys? Now we know – it's very much the sound of Peter Furler.

Most of the songs on On Fire feature Furler (say that three times!)and co-producer Seth Mosley playing pretty much everything you hear. Thankfully, the results are crisp and dynamic, serving the strong CCM rock/pop sound of songs like "I'm Alive" and "Hold On" very well. On the downside, this also produced a synth-heavy sound on songs like "Glory to the King" and "Never Ending Love Song," and seemed to result in repeating similar tempos and song set-ups on several tracks. Even "Psalm 93" got a disco/synth treatment, featuring that most dreaded of current trends: auto-tuning! One can't help but imagine how these good tracks could've been enhanced by the energy and sonic presence of a 'real' band. That hypothetical is realized, by the way, by the funk and energy of "Closer," the aggressive, dangerous, but fun-sounding track which features Steve Taylor and Some Other Band (those very words should warm the heart of you CCM veterans), which includes - along with Taylor- Jimmy Abegg (Vector) and John Painter (Fleming and John).

For better or worse (depending on your musical taste), On Fire sounds very much like what we've come to expect from a newsboys album – in fact, it has more of a newsboys feel to it than the latest newsboys project does. Go and In the Hands of God showed that classic band in fine form, with solid songwriting, production and performance. On Fire is not quite at the level of either of those two albums – at least not on a consistent level – but certainly shows the spark, enthusiasm, and charisma that helped propel those projects along.

There's considerable snap and crackle along with the pop, and it's good to hear Furler's distinctive Australian accent once again, encouraging, challenging and yes, delivering some respectable worship and praise on tracks like the slower-paced, anthemic "Matter of Faith," where Furler sings, 'so we watch and wait / until that day / when in a flash / this world will pass away / heaven and earth will kiss each other // the sun will rise and light a brand new day / every knee will bow unto Your name / all the saints will shout and sing Your Glory / as a matter of fact / it's a matter of faith // new clothes, new names / every tear drop is wiped away / fears gone love and peace remain.'

All in all, you get what you would expect to get from Furler on this, his first solo outing – and if that's what you're looking for you'll be quite happy. For me, a little less synth and a little more band would have helped, but the songs are catchy, the lyrics are a good balance of fun and reverence, and I think I even heard a little whistling on one track! Former newsboy Phil Joel makes a guest appearance, and a certain Mr. Taylor once again collaborates on several songs. That's good news, boys ...and girls.

-Bert Saraco