The Phantom Tollbooth

Drown EP
Artist:  Matt Beckler
Label: SMLxL Records
Length: 5 songs / 23:05 minutes

You gotta start somewhere. The Drown EP marks Matt Beckler's promising entrance into the world of CCM with five tight songs. The album opener, "Come Down," has almost Moody Blues' magnitude via accessible, archetypal modern rock effects. "Blue" ends the EP with a pleasing melody and harmony counterpart, and a spacious, acoustic guitar sound ala Phil Keaggy. The centerpiece, "I Will Sing," is a worshipful ballad, and most songs feature a gentle praise orientation that may appeal to those looking for more of the same from bands like Deliriou5? The title track and album highlight rises slightly above the rest of the mix with a more driving sound and catchy groove, but it is the sort of song that Jars of Clay has already done before and better.

As a whole Beckler offers tidy but true, encouraging lyrics for the spiritually needy through a gentle wash of inoffensive, well-played sound. But there is not much here that is creative or compelling either musically or lyrically. Despite a superbly pleasant voice and an affable Nineties alterna-pop mix, this collection won't sound fresh to anyone but hermits and other cloistered sects. It would be more interesting to see what Beckler could do with his agreeable talents in less-glutted, more artistic musical forms.

Steven S. Baldwin (7/15/99)

Itís hard for me to get into Matt Beckler. Becklerís vocals are hidden behind the emotive instrumentation, as well as being slurred, making it hard to listen to the lyrics. Drown also lacks hooks, leaving me without much of a desire to listen again after the last song is through.

Despite all this, I have to say that Matt Beckler definitely has the chance for commercial success. The talent is there, now all he needs is the experience.

Eric Daams 9/8/99