Downhere belongs up there
If you havent discovered Canadian quintet Downhere by now, you have a couple records to catch up on; but Wide-Eyed and Mystified is a good place to jump in. Its drive-with-the-windows-down fare that rocks more smartly and cleanly than ever. Production assistance from Grammy Award winners Greg Collins (U2, Gwen Stefani) and Mark Heimermann (ZOEgirl, Hyper Static Union) accentuates the smoothness of the bands third effort.
Dont be concerned if you find yourself singing, humming or contemplating the first track, The More, for days. When penning songs, Christian rock bands usually lean toward the melancholic or trite; but Downhere does
neither. You wont discover Coldplay-esque rip-your-heart-out odes; but an I love Jesus, skip-to-my-Lou verse is also nowhere to be found. Through the tight, cohesive guitar frameworks and level-headed chords, you glimpse something startlingmaturity.
Although relatively young, Downhere has played together long enough to exemplify striking maturity both spiritually and artistically. Since its self-titled debut in 2001, the band has achieved a seamless union of harmonies, melodies and lyrics that doesnt strain toward notoriety but fills its own shoes fully and gracefully. Many bands would do well to mark the way Downhere has claimed its alt-rock sonic individuality and polished it to a dazzling sheen.
And the lyrics on Mystified indicate a deep, seasoned relationship with the Lord, subtly interweaving paraphrased scripture with themes of love and surrender as on the powerful Little Is Much: What is the measure of a life well lived?/If all I can offer seems too small to give/This is a song for the weaker, the poorer and so-called failures/Little is much when Gods in it/And no one can fathom the plans He holds.
Some of the finer moments on the 13 tracks are owed to songs such as the impressive Dying to Know You that are capped with co-lead Marc Martels vocal prowess. He boasts a stunning range, a la Kevin Max down to the finality of a deeply masculine vibrato. Though not as obvious, lead singer Jason Germains voice is gritty, versatile and anchors fine tunes such as A Better Way. Stir jams out in the intro and progresses into more fantastic guitar work than were privy to elsewhere. Later on the album, Remember Me offers a soulful and poignant translation of the last supper: So we drink the wine and break the bread/Our senses will remind our heads/From now until Kingdom come...the promise that will not be overturned.
In the words of your mother: Get Downhere
ANDREA BAILEY CCMMagazine.com
It was the decision that every band hates to make especially after losing its record deal. But its one that Canadian rockers Downhere were recently forced to make: Is it time to hang up the music thing or press on?
Losing your record deal could be taken as a door closing and time to move on, says the bands bassist, Glenn Lavender. We are always prepared to do that if that is where we feel God is leading us. But after much prayer and time together talking through things, we realized that now isnt the time to stop. We still have a lot to say and much more room to grow musically and as a band. We decided we needed to get serious about what we do as a band, as a business and as representatives of Christ.
And getting serious didnt immediately mean heading to the studio to work on new songs. Instead, in Jerry Maguire fashion, Downhere crafted its mission statement, or as the band calls it, a document titled The Way We Do Downhere.
This really helped us focus on what we wanted to do as a band and what things are important to us, Lavender explains. It helps us with our everyday decision-making because we can always come back to it and say, Does this fit in with our plan? It was also something we could present to our new label and say, Here, this is who we are! These are our priorities, and this is how we want to run our business. Will you come alongside and join us?
And after several meetings with different labels, it turned out that the team behind Centricity Records was up for the challenge.
With a new record deal in place, Downhere was ready to begin work on its third album, "Wide-Eyed and Mystified," a title that vocalist Marc Martell says actually describes our state of the band even more than it describes the album itself.
The title hints at a more childlike and non-jaded approach to the way we do things, Martell clarifies. Our last album really pointed some fingers, and there are a couple of songs on there in particular that almost make me cringe not because of the musicality but the way some things were said. We had kind of the Keith Green prophetic approach of saying, Hey everybody! This is not right! Wake up! Lets do better! Dont get me wrong; I love Keith Green, and theres a place for that. But sometimes those methods are abrasive in the wrong sort of way. Im rarely inspired when someones standing there pointing out all my faults instead of going out and leading by joyful example.
And with "Wide-Eyed and Mystified," which released earlier this year, theres plenty of joy to be found, not only in the catchy pop/rock soundtrack thatll have listeners singing along in no time but also in a new excitement about the saving message of the Gospel.
Every believer remembers what it was like to first encounter the Gospel and surrender to Christs call, Martell adds. And the fact that were still mystified by Him is what keeps us going. Its what keeps artists creating. As a perfectionist, its easy for me to be critical about every note of music I hear on the radio. But I still want to believe that, for the most part, people are writing from a place of true sincerity a response to what they see in life even if it doesnt appeal to my music snobbery because its not terribly original sounding. Instead, lets be the artists we were made to be, drawing from the source of eternal creativity. Lets keep on romancing the church, and lets keep on romancing the world just like God is. That says a lot about our role as musicians. This is the direction were going, and we hope lots of people will come along.
Christa Bannister, 2006