The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Clear
Label: Ardent Records
Length: 13 tracks / 50.58 minutes

Melodic female-fronted pop-alternative, with vocals reminiscent of Sarah Masen in a more forthright mood, Clear have garnered a fair bit of attention so far. The first track sounds like a single destined for a lot of play on Christian radio, with a very straightforward set of lyrics about the need to live for God more boldly, and a breezy feel to the music.
The album continues in a similar vein to its opener, although a few different effects are brought in to give the sound a bit more depth. Digging a little beneath the surface reveals that the band have worked hard on their lyrics and, while the message is fairly simple on the surface, the wording is generally incisive and rich. Try this section from "Clarity," for example:

The lyrics are generally accompanied with music that is fairly accessible, but I can't help feeling that the production hand is too evident in the melting pot. "What Your Grace Can Do," for example, starts out well, but is drawn out and shows far too generic a face before long. Much of the album is similar, there's a spark there, but it's as if we're seeing it through a misted lens.
The end result is an unfortunately average album which has fallen foul of many of the pitfalls awaiting unwary young musicians. We can but hope that as they accrue experience we'll hear their music spark more strongly.
By James Stewart (1/23/99)