Monday, June 11, 2007

"Overdressed" Dresses up Nicely (A review of the new Caedmon's Call release)

When you're wearing a fig leaf, it's hard to feel overdressed, but that kind of ironic imagery not only paints the cover of Caedmon's Call's new release, it permeates nearly every song on the album. The return of Derek Webb brings with it a raw and rich honesty, and the songwriting talents of the underrated Andrew Osenga give this album, and the band, a mature yet edgy, warm yet independant feel that is unmatched in their previous efforts. If 40 Acres told of a band coming of age, Overdressed tells of a band entering a new age with a feel that is at the same time both fresh and trusted.

The album begins, as it should, with Webb singing Trouble, a bluesy number that speaks of sin as not simply a "struggle", but something as deep as "the blood running through my veins." Webb's return is marked by the band's trademark B-3 organ, and fresh harmonies. Trouble is a song that sounds at once familiar, and demonstrates, right from the start, that all is right in the world of Webb/Caedmon's relations.

As the album progresses the thing that stands out is the flow of different styles and voices, instruments and arrangements. Need Your Love and Sacred, songs that easily bear the Caedmon's Call signature, are followed by Expectations, a simple yet sweeping epic that speaks of the over-optimistic outlook often attributed to real world faith. Osenga writes with great timing and truth that Christianity is often presented as another "expensive ad for something cheap." The variance in arrangements and writing gives the album the same kind of flow as a good compilation or soundtrack, and, as the album builds, a sense of anticipation develops within the listener. This is a "can't wait to hear what's next" release.

The anticipation created by the beginning of the album is richly rewarded in the second half of the release. The back-to-back-to back string of Share in the Blame, Hold the Light and Two Weeks in Africa is their best three song combination in recent memory. Share in the Blame is a folksy and melodic modern day admonition to get the log out of your eye before blaming others. Hold the Light is Osenga's tribute to accountability and trust, and it's haunting chorus is framed well by beautifully arranged instrumentals. It's a song more felt than heard, more absorbed than encountered, and it flows nicely into Two Weeks in Africa, a celebration of the change of perspective that comes only from participation in missions. The bridge on Two Weeks in Africa takes you from internal struggle to hope to outright elation over the possibilities present when people become partners with Christ in international missions.

The record ends with another gritty Webb number, All Across the Western World, followed by the encouraging Always Been There and Start Again. In a twist of irony, the final songs speak of the presence and new beginnings that Christ offers only to those who come poor and weary. It is a fitting ending for an album that recognizes man's propensity to stand before God Overdressed, embelishing his own goodness in light of God's glory.

In all, it's good to see Caedmon's Call return to form. The addition of Webb, though significant, is not all there is to Overdressed. Truth be told, this album dresses up very nicely. The writing is solid, as usual, but the overall flow of the music and themes is what makes Overdressed the best Caedmon's Call release in years.

If you're anxious to hear something off of Overdressed, check out Share in the Blame on the Caedmon's Call Myspace Page here. Great guitar solo by Andy!


r! said...

Derek Webb is BACK with Caedmon's Call???? Ooooooh. I can't wait to hear this album. I stopped listening to them when Derek left.

Barry said...

Good review. I can't wait for the album!


Marc Mac said...

Great review. I got a chance to hear this album and it is really good. I have to admidt that I am a Caedmon's fan and have still been listening without Derek. In fact, I thought Share the Well was a great album. But I do agree that there is even greater authneticity now. I don't think there was anything wrong with the band without Derek, I just think they are even better with him.

Jeff Olson said...

I just got the album today. Unfortunately, I feel the same way on this one as I did on the last album: Andrew Osenga's songs are just not my cup of tea. Something about them just doesn't work for me.