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Kingdom of Comfort
Length: 12 tracks / 65 mins
Until World Service, Delirious? were on a huge roll. That was the disc that seemed to split the fans. Had they lost their originality? Had they given up on secular listeners? Were they forced to put out blander material to suit the worldwide range of their fans? The Mission Bell was musically similar, but had fire in its lyrics and a sense of mission to the Church. Kingdom of Comfort brings them up another notch again, as they find a cause to impassion them and their widest range of material yet.
There are songs here about injustice, songs of praise, songs born from family; inspiration to fight against setbacks and to be all that we are created to be; but all of them fitting into a coherent world view that again asks questions of both secular and Christian audiences. There are some good tunes, too.
Kingdom of Comfortis an unusual opener, so upfront about the purpose of the disc that it is bravely downbeat, rather than an anthemic opener, and ends with a Mezzomorphis vibe. This is the sign above the album’s shop front, warning us about the challenges inside. Guitarist Stu Garrard writes about the track’s point, “What is our kingdom of comfort? It’s when we are comfortable and safe in our isolated environments, our religion, our ‘castles’; when we become indifferent to the struggles of others, or when we are fearful of being inclusive and diverse”. The song makes clear that the items we are led to pray salvation from are things that we normally aspire to:
Save me, save me from the kingdom of comfort where I am king,Once this prologue has established the underlying premise of the disc, it’s left to second track “God is Smiling” to launch the celebration. The track is about working together under Christ and not letting barriers divide us. Destined to be one of the band’s live classics, it was born from a live spontaneous section in “History Maker”. It is closely followed the disc’s other prime contender for live highlight, “Give It What You’ve Got,” a near-glam piece, which would feel at home in a ‘seventies compilation.
“Love Will Find A Way” is one of the most honestly questioning works on the disc. It wrestles with the practicalities of being a band that tours the world singing about God’s love and being put up in luxury hotels, while meeting those from what seems like a different world. They describe the feelings of frustration, impotence and hope succinctly:
I stare in the eyes of this flesh and boneIt’s a cracking tune, too.
So is “Eagle Rider,” which sounds like the title suggests it should: a gently soaring, radio-friendly melody to accompany words that mix metaphors and images all over the place, but still convey a sense of rising above those things that would wear us down. Although it began life as a title inspired by the low-budget film “The Whale Rider,” it has now become a fully-fledged, beautiful creature. If this is a new musical avenue for the band, I would be very happy to see it well-walked.
“How Sweet the Name” spends most of its almost-six-minute life as a simple, piano-led worship piece in praise of Jesus. But long-time fans will be poised from fairly early on for the explosion of guitar that waits it the wings, always destined to be unleashed. So when Smith repeats, “Every soul needs a saviour,” they will be crying out for the climax. It’s another great track and simply has to be on the next live album, where Garrard can help it towards ten minutes.
As well as songs that come from the band’s collective experience there are a couple of personal ones towards the end. “Wonder” comes from the experience Martin Smith’s family had of almost adopting a prostitute’s child and how that led to supporting a project that takes women out of the trade. It is about pure love, and tingles with electric emotion. “Stare the Monster Down” is about facing adversity. While it is a general song, with an eye on fear, pride and poverty, much of it is specifically about Stu Garrard’s father’s cancer.
It is hard to find negatives. For the first few listens it seems like there are several fine tracks, but none are quite on the level of previous greats like “Investigate” and “My Glorious,” but further listens flesh out the songs more fully and their quality grows almost visibly. The only part that jars is the title line to “We Give You Praise”. Within the song it has a context, and if this disc were in isolation, it could be a strong vehicle to praise. But this kind of line has become a cliché from which the rest of the disc is refreshingly free, and so the song suffers by association.
The CD booklet is remarkable. It goes beyond thanks, lyrics and merchandising to four ‘chapters’ by invited writers of the calibre of Shane Claiborne and Bishop Graham Cray, who notes, “Everything is available for us to consume, but we consume beyond the wildest dreams of any previous society and beyond the capacity of the planet to sustain our way of life. As we consume, others drop deeper into scarcity”. It indicates how central this passion is to the renewed Delirious?.
This disc is the sound of purpose resurrected and their best new disc for years. More importantly, if their influence continues as it has in the past, it could radically shake up the ‘praise and worship’ genre, giving it the practical, biblical earthing for which it is desperate. Welcome back, boys!
This is the most important album that Delirious? has ever made. It comes with not only the trademark anthemic melodic rock sound but with a deeper prophetic challenge. These are songs to chew on and to allow to drip deep into the soul and society. In their book I Could Sing of Your Love Forever explaining their songwriting processes and spiritual journeys Martin Smith stated the dilemma of the modern worship writer, "There has been a lot of talk in the Christian community about writing more songs about injustice and social issues. Is it possible to write congregational songs about poverty, grief or child trafficking and not spoil everybody's Sunday? Is it possible to highlight some of these issues so that in time they move from our heads to our hearts, and we start to respond to them as Jesus would have done?" This is their attempt.
The first words on the album "Save me..." lull the happy-clappy cliché addicted listener into a false sense of security before a depth charge shakes the comfort "Save me save me/From the kingdom of comfort where I am king/From my unhealthy lust of material things." How to attempt to follow Jesus in the most spoiled generation ever is the conundrum of the song, the album and of every preacher, pastor and worship leader. Kingdom Of Comfort is a vital contribution to resourcing the challenge.
And it goes on. On "God Is Smiling," Delirious? use the positivity, that is a rather overplayed characteristic of the south east of England worship movement that they have heralded, to throw another curve and when we are glad He is smiling they tell us when, "God is smiling over us tonight/where hearts are broken love unites." The challenge is not to wallow in our comfort and ticket to God's coming Kingdom but to bring it here, now. On "Break the Silence" where Iain Archer was brought in to help with the chorus, they take one of Jesus Lord's Prayer refrains and rock it up - "If heaven is real then let our heaven become/Peace on earth, let it flow."
Experience, maturity and travel has brought
this new urgency to the song writing of Martin Smith and Stu G. The band
talk about how travelling to the world's poorer nations has jolted their
Christian concern and they tackle that on Love Will Find A Way - "I try
make sense of the things I've seen/Between the poverty and the five star
dream." Family illness has also brought serious reality check and
them to want to Stare The Monster Down. All of this makes this band more
vital than ever. The healthy diet on many young Christian iPods will be
all the better for it.
Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has written two books Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 which he is currently updating and The Rock Cries Out; Discovering Eternal Truth in Unlikely Music. He dabbles in poetry and songwriting and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or night @ www.bbc.co.uk/ni/religion/rhythmandsoul). He has his own web page--Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org . He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.
Delirious? would like you to believe that they and their latest record, Kingdom of Comfort, is "well and truly messed up, fully inspired, and utterly uncomfortable." It might be a step forward for Delirious?, but there isn't much "uncomfortable" about the sonics. Finding more in common with modern rock than CCM, the new songs would slot nicely into a mix tape of The Killers, Coldplay, and Mute Math (or The Police). Jon Thatcher remains one of the most under- appreciated bass players in music today, skillfully underpinning the rhythm section alongside drummer Stew Smith's final recorded work with the group. The urgency driving "Love Will Find a Way" and "Wonder" is aided and abetted by the swaggering Oasis-rock of "Give What You've Got." The title track is also the lead-off, setting the tone of things to come with brooding, moody synths and wailing vocals. It's nothing terribly ground-breaking, but neither is it derivative or trite. Martin Smith's not-inconsiderable pipes contribute tremendously to the strength of the material; the man can SING. Ironically, it is the "worship ballad" where Delirious? stumbles. For instance, the first single of a project designed to provoke listeners is the tragically cliché and lamentable "We Give You Praise." The band outright ruins the following track, "How Sweet The Name," by insisting on bringing in the full band to close out an otherwise beautiful track comprised solely of Martin Smith's voice, piano and very minor string work. It is neither powerful nor impacting, but jarring and frustrating.
Lyrically, the group tackles poverty, consumerism and the failings of a materialist, egocentric western culture. It is refreshing to hear a band known for revolutionizing "modern worship" travel new and unfamiliar ground. The past two Delirious? albums have been (for the most part) very safe, largely un-adventurous and overly "Christian friendly." Kingdom of Comfort is challenging, relevant and more universal in its concerns, hopefully in a fashion that engages listeners to pause and consider something more than the latest fashions and video games. That said, I can't help but feel that Delirious? could have done more with the theme than they did. The premise, though well met, feels slightly unfulfilled. You will read about how the group "sings about Martin's father's battle with cancer," but it is largely contained to one verse of one song (the quirky, eclectic "Stare The Monster Down"). Delirious? gave light to some of the problems but seem to lack any practical answers, instead singing that "love will find a way." That's well and good, but love will find a way to do... what exactly? Frankly, "Our God Reigns" from the The Mission Bell is in many ways more harshly challenging and provocative than the entire new album.
Delirious? does not quite live up to the sonic or thematic promise trumpeted in press releases, overly enthusiastic Christian reviews or even the unique packaging itself, a clear plastic package containing a small hard-bound book with testimonies and stories meant to provoke and inspire the reader to find some way to better their world. Yet the good far outweighs the bad. Despite two poor worship ballads and the lack of a singularly epic track in the tradition of a "History Maker," "Investigate" or "Our God Reigns," it is hard to deny the energy and passion that has infused Delirious?' seventh (or eighth or ninth, depending on how you count the Cutting Edge discs) studio album. Kingdom of Comfort is not going to change the world, but there is a great deal here to like. Who knows--you may even find yourself inspired.
(Additional note: The album lists two additional tracks in the liner, available for download from the group's website. They were not included as part of this review. The two tracks, "Hallelujah" and "Mothers of the Night," are largely forgettable and one can see why they were not included on the CD proper.)
Ryan Ro / CNXmusic.com]