The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Between Thieves
Label: Tattoo
Length: 42:19 minutes/ 12 songs
The past year has seen the release of sophomore projects from many bands who were involved in the wave of Christian "alternative" projects a couple of years ago. A number of those bands have started to push the boundaries a little more now that the initial wave of enthusiasm for their previous brand of pop-rock has worn off, and Between Thieves are no different on their second release, Water. Unfortunately it takes them quite a few tracks to get there, it's not until the seventh track that we begin to see something new.
"When Gabriel Cried" is a restrained, atmospheric piece that bears the hallmarks of producer Steve Hindalong and engineer Derri Daugherty (collectively The Choir). This instrumental track subtly utilizes prolonged, slightly muffled cymbals which build up atmosphere in an unusual way, and a prominent fluid bass. Regrettably the track lasts little more than two minutes and then the band goes right back to jangly guitars.
While the instrumental track is the most interesting offering here, the  lyrical imagery is also of a consistently high quality. "Living God" and  "Alive" both provide excellent examples of the band's ability to fashion  messages of faith and encouragement into commendable lyrics:  Nevertheless, the attention to lyrics is not matched by the music, resulting in the album's downfall. Otherwise competent, jangly, driving pop-rock, Water needs something more to stand out in the changing field of popular music.

By James Stewart  (3/10/1999)