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Wake Up, O Sleeper 
Artist: Cool Hand Luke
Label: Floodgate Records
Length: 10 tracks, 56:39

This Tennessee emo-rock trio is back with a strong follow-up to 2001's _I Fought Against Myself_.  This disc is the band's debut on Tim Taber's Floodgate Records.  Last time around the band showed promise by distinguishing themselves from all of the other emo-wannabes out there by coming up with their very own sound.  While at times they evoke the sound of some earlier bands, like Sunny Day Real Estate, they are continuing to evolve, creating an aurally pleasing landscape that blends their emotion-soaked vocals and a mix of driving guitars with a strong bass line and solid drums.  Produced by Steve Hindalong, _Wake Up, O Sleeper_ shows the band maturing without compromising their sound.  The first track, "Heroes Will Be Heroes" is already doing quite well at some of the more progressive Christian rock radio outlets.  Throughout the band strikes an interesting lyrical balance between musings on the struggles of living a Christian life, the emptiness of life without God, and all-out songs of awe and worship.  But this isn't your typical praise and worship fare.  Some of these songs come close to 21st Century Psalmody with a true sense of the huge gap that separates God and man.  There are even some more eclectic and experimental tunes thrown in, like "Two Pianos," complete with violin and an odd assortment of percussive noisemakers. 

Throughout, "Wake Up, O Sleeper" is unabashedly "Christian" in its lyrics without sounding like some of the propagandistic, Jesus-per-minute, cookie-cutter music that often comes out of the CCM world.  In "So Shall it Be" the band lifts heavily from the Gospels and Revelation, while "Like a Bell Tolling From Another World" is almost creedal in nature.  And in the final song, "O Shachah," they lament the loss of true worship.

While the musicianship is great, what really draws me into Cool Hand Luke's music is Mark Nicks' voice.  He has amazing range and he takes you with him on this roller-coaster ride of emotions, allowing you to experience them vicariously through him.

With a label to support them, Cool Hand Luke is poised to really make a mark on the music scene, and with recent events in the music industry it's not a stretch to think that someday this band could get picked up by a major mainstream label. 

Ken Mueller 3/15/2003

In the last few years, Tennessee-based indie rock band Cool Hand Luke has established quite a following. With this in mind, major distributors Floodgate Records picked the band up to release their latest full-length Wake Up, O Sleeper.

The cover art and insert book for Wake Up, O Sleeper are impressive. The art work and drawings in the insert book do a good job of encouraging the listener to pop the CD in. The disc itself, however, leaves a bit to be desired.

On Wake Up, O Sleeper the band leaves its hardcore roots behind and settles wholeheartedly into the vein of indie rock. On songs such as "Nobody Hugs a Rose" and "For You" the sound does stray a bit from what is typically heard in this genre, however. For the most part the music is good, but not groundbreaking. 

In the band's bio it states that these are songs of hope and spirituality, never preachy, simply honest. Part of that statement is true, however these lyrics definitely are preachy at times. Many of the lyrics address the audience directly, which turns into a cheap way of getting across the message. Good lyrics show you, they don't tell you. "Like a Bell Tolling from Another World" says, "If seeing is believing, how do you know what you can't show? Believe in what you're seeing in your hearts eyes, past the disguise." Despite the fact that the lyrics fall into the rut of telling, there are also some real lyrical gems that read more like a journal entry than a sermon, such as "For You": "My sweet Jesus, I'm sorry that I let you down again. It's not so easy down here anymore."

There is certainly potential for Cool Hand Luke. On the next album hopefully the band will approach their lyrics as art and seek to find ways of expressing their hearts, not simply telling their audience what they should think or do.

Trae Cadenhead  3/22/2003 

Cool Hand Luke is an indie rock band out ofTennessee of all places. Wake Up, O Sleeper is their first release on Floodgate Records and their third release overall. 

Even from the title Wake Up, O Sleeper it is clear that Cool Hand Luke envisions their music as worship. In their lyrics they reference nearly twenty Scripture references. But unlike some popular Christian groups, the spiritual emphasis comes off as sincere. 

Musically the band has morphed from a screamo band into something much more delicate. Much of that is due to their vocalist’s progression from screaming into developing a beautiful falsetto. There is also experimentation into softer genres on “Nobody Hugs a Rose” and “Two Pianos.” 

The first six songs may be the best Cool Hand Luke has ever written. The final four, with the exception of “For You,” are not as enjoyable. “For You” is the high point of the album as the singer cries out “But if I’m a fool, I’m a fool for you / And if I’m alive, I’m living just for you.” 

Wake Up, O Sleeper is an album that takes some time to digest with tracks that average five minutes. But it’s well worth the listener’s patience. 

Matt Modrich 6/8/2003

The opening minutes of Wake Up O Sleeper are fairly non-descript and{make little impression. "Nobody Hugs a Rose," however, makes it all worthwhile. Like a breath of fresh air, the song’s soft, pop air breaks the fog that permeates much of this debut. The cold, jazz-fusion sheen is hard to get to grips with. What a shame, since the lyrical content makes an effort to connect. 

Kevin Mathews  8/16/2003

"This is love, that you would die for me." There is no ambiguity in that line--no shadow of a doubt.” One of the most impressive attributes of the new Cool Hand Luke album, Wake Up, O Sleeper, is its ability to be lyrically blatant without falling into the trap of triteness. Time and time again bands have found it impossible to say what they mean without succumbing to the corny or cliché, but this album is a shining example of how to get it done. The combination of heart-felt vocals, carefully crafted lyrics full of vivid images, and an indie rock sound make this recording something worth hearing. 

The musicianship displayed on this album is excellent. It forces comparisons to the late great Sunny Day Real Estate, and, although the allusion may be lost on many, there are points at which one would swear he was hearing a new recording by the recently defunct band Shiner. The instruments and vocals weave around each other as only a first-rate indie rock band can do.

The record as a whole has a sense of continuity as one song leads smoothly into the next. However, just as the listener thinks he has it all figured out, he is thrown for a loop. The guitar heavy theme is broken with the piano-based “Nobody Hugs A Rose” on the fourth track. Later on the album a violin is added, and a glockenspiel and wind chimes even make an appearance before all is said and done. The listener’s interest is also kept piqued throughout by various changes in rhythm and style.

While it’s not something that one is generally looking for in a rock album, there are points during the course of  Wake Up, O Sleeper that are nothing less than a worship experience.  As Mark Nicks belts out “Hallelujah” near the end of “So Shall It Be,” it is just so easy to be brought into worship. There’s an honesty and urgency in that song that leaves much of the so-called “worship” music out there feel simply cold. “For You” is another beautiful expression that can touch the soul. The lyric “But if I’m a fool, I’m a fool for You” couples so nicely with the bridge, “I will rejoice in this foolishness,” bringing the idea full circle. That mood of worship, while not as obvious during most of the album, is pervasive throughout the rest of the tracks as well. 

The album is superbly produced and a sheer pleasure to listen to. It is a good length, and continues to be enjoyable after many spins. The album is not terribly original, but for a fan of high-quality indie rock music, it is an excellent bet. 

Trilisa M. Perrine  (08/29/03)

 

   
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