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Another Journal Entry
Artist: BarlowGirl
Label: Fervent Records
Time: 11 Tracks / 40:44
Release Date: August 2005

Raw is the best way to describe the penetrating guitar riffs and pounding drumbeats that slam your emotions up against the wall with the latest offering from BarlowGirl. With lyrics that rob you of your innocence, the Barlow sisters--Becca, Alyssa and Lauren will rock their way into the hearts of music fans everywhere with their recording of Another Journal Entry

There have been solo female rock performers who have captured the imagination but in recent years most of the rock bands totally comprised of women have been relegated to the status of contenders and pretenders not ever reaching the heights of their pop counterparts----until now! BarlowGirl is providing a positive spin on the rock genre in much the same way as sisters Tricia and Melissa Brock of Superchic[k] have done for pop music.

Led by Becca’s deep guitar grooves accompanied by Lauren’s drumbeats the CD opens with "Grey" a hard as nails missive that takes no prisoners; "I cannot be blind no more / Numb to what I’m living for / Help me stop this compromise that justifies these lies / I need your passion in this life /." 

"Let Go" provides a nice segue to the rest of the album. "Grey" reminds us that after we forego compromise we have to trust in God or as the thundering chorus says, “But trust that You’ll catch me.”

"I Need You To Love Me" lavish on us rich acoustic guitar melodies and thrusts Alyssa Barlow’s gorgeous and softer edged vocals into the forefront. The song provides a timely break from the grinding rock riffs of the earlier songs and prepares us for the beautiful "Porcelain Heart." Becca’s notes about this song describe it better than I can, “You don’t have to live your life going from person to person to person to make your heart whole. All that will happen is that your heart will get broken, time after time. We think we need these relationships because we are so empty as human beings that we look to others to find self worth. There’s a different way. "Porcelain Heart" says that if you have a broken heart, there is healing for you in the Father’s perfect love.”

The rock ballad "My God’s Enough" based on Psalm 73 is sung with the same conviction that I imagine the Psalmist had when he first offered up these words to our Lord. BarlowGirl and their producer Otto Price add enough DJ overtones to this song  to keep it from being stereotyped as just another rock ballad. When this song goes for radio adds this is one passage of scripture teens everywhere will have committed to memory.

I could continue to enthuse about other songs on this album but that would take some of the mystery away. If rock music is what pumps the blood through your veins than buy Another Journal Entry, you won’t be disappointed. This CD gets five stars from me.

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 



“We met these sisters/ Barlow's their last name/ Ordinary girls/ They don't live in the fast lane”
 
So go the opening lines of “Barlow Girls,” the leadoff cut on the _Karaoke Superstars_ album from multi-instrumentalist Max Hsu and his cohorts in the alt-pop outfit, Superchic[k].  As anyone with even a passing knowledge of Christian pop will tell you, much has happened for the then-unknown Alyssa, Lauren and Rebecca Barlow since being name checked by Hsu & Co. in early 2002.  Uniting under the BarlowGirl moniker, the musically-inclined trio took the Christian pop scene by storm with their 2003 debut.  The self-titled project moved a quarter of a million units, spawned two Top 5 hits, including the longest-running Number One single of 2004 (“Never Alone”), netted the threesome four Dove Award nominations and went on to make the Barlows the top-selling new artist of 2004.  To say that the sophomore release has some big shoes to fill is a bit like saying the members of KISS tend slightly toward the theatrical.
 
To their credit, the lasses Barlow kick the new record off in top form with “Grey,” which, despite being an overly close approximation of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” features an infectiously driving rhythm, clever lyrical twists and just enough pop sheen to make sure it hits the Top 20.  The equally impressive follow-up track, “Let Go,” occupies that rarified domain where fist-pumping arena rock and ear-catching teen pop peacefully coexist.  Likewise, the ingratiatingly effervescent “5 Minutes Of Fame” (“Maybe I gave in/ Maybe I sold out/ But I was getting nowhere/ Until I woke up and found/ That morals can’t take you to the top”) offers a witty, tongue-in-cheek look at the joys of compromising one’s convictions that even the most hardened of pop haters would surely tap their feet to.
 
The siblings show an equal aplomb with kinder, gentler material.  The splendidly understated modern pop ballad, “Thoughts of You,” marries simple, heartfelt lyrics (“I love you/ My heart is Yours/ I long to give You/ All of me”) to airy, ethereal vocals which ebb and flow like a gentle ocean tide.  The rousing, anthemic quality of “I Need You to Love Me” harks back to the classic ‘80s power ballad, even as its lumbering bassline, organic percussion and introspective lyrics (“Your love makes me forget what I have been/ Your love makes me see who I really am”) place the imposing tune squarely within the alt-pop domain.  And the moving, piano-based “Porcelain Heart” builds nimbly from its austere and somber start to a grand, sweeping midsection before returning to its earlier hushed tones – Jim Steinman would have been proud.
 
In fairness, the girls make a few missteps along the way.  “Take Me Away” and “Psalm 73 (My God's Enough)” come across a tad enervated and perfunctory.  The cover of Chris Tomlin’s “Enough” stops similarly short of really taking flight, adding little to the superior original version.  And it’s hard not to view the acoustic repackaging of “Never Alone” for the new outing as more opportunistic than artistic.  The abovementioned lapses notwithstanding, the new album tops the debut in nearly every category.  Its lyrics display a heightened subtlety and insight into the human/divine relationship.  Musically, its ballads are more diverse and leave a longer-lasting impression, while the more rocking cuts sport a grittiness and immediacy only hinted at by those on the freshman project.  Indeed, where the inaugural release sounded like lost material from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, the new record sounds more like, say, the gals from The Donnas covering the music from the soundtrack.
 
While most critics probably won’t be lining up to label Journal as genre-defining, the record is nevertheless a solid, engaging effort from an enthusiastic and talented set of performers.  In fact, for what it’s worth, one would have a hard time imagining a more perfect soundtrack for the next long road trip in the family car.  The twin first-grade girls are certain to bounce merrily from seat to seat in rhythm with its purely pop entries.  Big brother, one year shy of graduating high school, will surely take a secret liking to its harder-edged cuts.  And Mom and Dad will simply be glad that all of them are too preoccupied to ask “Are We There Yet?”  Rebecca, Alyssa and Lauren would surely approve.
 
Bert Gangl  9/10/2005
 

 
 

 

 
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