This is the latest album review I have done for BBC Radio Cornwall. You can hear it go out this Sunday morning (hopefully) on Denis Nightingale’s early Sunday programme – it’s usually played just before 9am. You can also pick it up during the following on the BBC’s Listen Again facility here.
I guess one of the reasons bands make albums is because they want to get their message across. It’s not always that you hear of people taking their own advice so literally as this month’s album from American-based band Newsboys.
It’s called Go and, no sooner was the album out than bassist Phil Joel announced he was leaving the band for pastures new! Then there were four and for the moment there it stays. There was no fighting and the remaining Newsboys paid Joel a generous tribute as he begins a new ministry encouraging people to regular Bible reading.
But let’s get back to the album because it’s a great little package. Newsboys consistently produce classic 3½-minute radio songs with neat hooks and the added bonus of some pithy Gospel punches. This latest album, released last year, sold 100,000 copies in the first two months.
You may have heard their songs on some of the Great Worship Songs compilations – He Reigns for one – and their 1999 track Love Liberty Disco is a great piece of disco funk.
The opening track, wherever we go, is typical of their style. It starts feeling like a pastiche on Christians who think they only have to turn up for the world to get better – so wherever they go little glow-worms glow, the crime rate drops and the ozone lay shows improvement. But then it also leaves the question shouldn’t Christians make things better by taking Christ into the dark places.
The story of God’s grace from Bethlehem all the way through William Carey’s mission work and the Welsh revival right down to today is the theme of The Mission. The chorus repeats and repeats that this is the revolution that Jesus started and it’s here; echoing across the world from the shores of Galilee.
Newsboys see themselves and us as the people responsible for continuing such mission. The second verse ends: “gonna put my hand to the plow; not looking back, not now.”
Many of their songs are urging Christian involvement in worship, mission and service. But they also question what we and they are about.
You may not be a great lover of rap music and you may be really picky about using words like dunno (d-u-n-n-o) in songs, but Your love is better than life takes a rap soliloquy, wondering about what motivates us to Christian things and wraps it round with a chorus that repeats that the one thing we do know is that God’s love is better than life.
They are honest enough to ask if what they do as a band is a ministry or a show and to admit to wondering what happens when we die but keep affirming that without God’s love we are a broken machine and life is a mindless routine or, as another track claims, with His love we are free to run, free to dance, free to live.