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for the vagabond believer
Artist: Fringe
Label: Bulletproof
Length: 14 tracks/61:50

If the name refers to their place in the contemporary scene, it is way off base. Their combination of post-modern rock, shoe-gazer, Starflyer-esqe guitar work and impassioned, introspective songs are right in the center of the current college rock song.  If the term refers to the bottom of the Levites ceremonial robes, signifying their spirituality, well, they are right on target. This upstate New York four-some delivers well paced, well executed paeans to life as they find it in this baby century, warts and all.

It isn't surprising that Atlanta-based Bulletproof Records has picked up these Northern brothers. The lively cuts have a heavy dusting of southern rock that even the deepest snow can't chill. So on these chilly winter nights, crank up the cd and toss a log on the fire and give these guys a try. 

Linda LaFianza 2/10/2001

There's always a problem I feel I face when reviewing Christian artists. On one hand, I want to support a fellow Christian's ministry. Obviously, they feel it's important enough to dedicate a serious amount of their time to trying to create and perfect it. And far be it from me to rain on their parade. Who am I to judge a ministry's effectiveness? But on the other hand, there's that "critical" part of me that needs to be honest and forthright with how I feel about art. And this quandary is keenly felt while listening to For the Vagabond Believer. This is a band that is certain to turn heads with their solid contemporary sound and passionate lyrics. But it left me feeling, dare I say it... bored.

I played this for my friend one day, and he quipped "It sounds like someone's trying too hard to be like Pearl Jam." I won't go that far, but it gets pretty close to the point. Listening to Fringe, there's no doubt that they're trying to be intense and sincere in their music. They've got that whole rhythmic, heavy alternative sound down... and that's just the problem. What makes it even worse is that I can tell they've got the talent to do even more. Unfortunately, they waste it on music that just seems too eager to launch into a Dave Matthews-esque freestyle jam, complete with Harnish's impassioned Eddie Vedder/Scott Stapp/Dave Matthews vocals (yeah, I didn't think that kind of combination was possible either). He may feel passionate about what he's singing, but I feel more emotion in the hushed whisper of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) and the off-key warblings of Scott Chernoff (Molasses). 

The lyrics are the album's strong point, which is surprising to me, since many comparable bands usually have some pretty inane, cliched lyrics. Poetic lines like "Let the touch of my hand melt all resistance, yield to me my love/When grace is received it closes the distance, and we are one" ("Believe") paint a portrait of grace and forgiveness. The one song that leaves me with hope is the final song, "Let It Begin," another powerful song about grace. Over subtle electronics and drum loops, Harnish sings "I might fall into nothing, nothing at all/But hope drags me back again to transcend/And life comes crashing back in" over soaring guitars. And yeah, it might be radio-friendly, but I wouldn't mind hearing it while scanning the dial.  

I'm sure that youth groups and Bible studies all over would lap this up. It's solid and contemporary, and I'm sure it contains a hit somewhere on there. Tell them it's a group of Christians, and they'll lap it up even more. Heck, if you're into anything that combines radio-friendly, alt-rock ditties with good Christian lyrics, than this is right up your alley. Unfortunately, I was hoping for more. Instead, I hear a band with the talent and skill to be more than what they are, but instead, settling for a sound that doesn't do their lyrics justice, a sound that has been done before way too many times.

Jason Morehead   02/17/2001
 
 

Jason Morehead is also the publisher of Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at http://www.opuszine.com

 

   
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