The Choir, a band that has been in continuous action since Ronald Reagan was president, deserves every accolade that you can say about an artist. They've mined the human heart and how it connects with the divine, while delivering some of the most beautiful, epic and haunting music of the last 35-plus years. The Choir deserve the kinds of audiences that U2 enjoys, and they've been on a particular tear for the past five albums. (The U2 comparison also helps when talking about the band's epic, layered sound.)
Their newest offering, the melancholy, yet ultimately uplifting Bloodshot finds the band in fantastic form musically, though in tough shape from a personal standpoint, particularly in regards to drummer and main lyricist Steve Hindalong's recent divorce. This is worth mentioning, in that Hindalong has documented his life thus far in the band's music. With songs of marital romance, domestic bliss and the pains of life events like aging and miscarriages (side note: If you've never heard the epic and gut-wrenching "Sad Face" from 1987's Chase The Kangaroo, stop now and go give it a few spins), few bands have tied faith to real life like The Choir.
Bloodshot doesn't shy away from this heartbreaking recent event, and in fact, embraces the exploration of a long-term relationship ending as a backdrop against themes of faith and grace. (The album would make a good bookend to Jason Gray's recent Where The Light Gets In, another fine and tough exploration of this same theme.)
The title track, "Bloodshot Eyes," finds the band spinning out a minor key, melancholy melody that captures the feeling of staying up all night and attempting to talk out a marital issue, "The moon is in the water, the sun is on the rise, you're every bit as beautiful through bloodshot eyes." Lead singer Derri Daugherty has long had one of the most haunting and emotive voices in Alternative Music, and the album's opening statement is a bit of a suckerpunch emotionally, though laced with the band's trademark beautiful construction.
Thankfully, a veteran band like The Choir knows that you have to lighten up every now and then, and second track, "Californians On Ice," is a bit of a novelty tune that wouldn't be out of place in the band's other incarnation, The Lost Dogs (of which Hindalong and Daugherty make up half the band). The phrase "Californians going nowhere faster, it's an unmitigated disaster" is a turn of phrase that deserves an award or two. The following "Summer Rain" is also a sunnier tune (literally), and finds the band rocking out while celebrating grace and love, all while turning the overused "rain" metaphor on its head.
But things quickly turn dark again with a tough quartet of songs, starting with the heartbreaking "Birds Bewildered" that features the devastating couplet "I think one of us said something untrue / that the loving thing to do / was to set each other free." The following waltz, "Only Reasons," finds the narrator confessing "I don't believe you should forgive me for my treason / the man who hurt you was no stranger to myself / I won't offer bad excuses / just bad reasons / like I was climbing Jacob's ladder straight to Hell." "House Of Blues" is a difficult song about both the joy of a shared space, and the devastating effects of having a physical place represent a relationship. Finally, "The Dizzy Wounded" wraps up this section with a swirling ode to the emotional toll that a divorce brings on a soul. "Before we begin our descent into madness / why don't we / the dizzy wounded / dance / before we surrender euphoria to sadness / I say we / the dizzy wounded / dance."
The band brings back the light with the rocking "Magic" and the countrified "We've Got The Moon" before ending with an elegant statement of the wish to believe that the Lord can still be found in the midst of personal failing and the accompanying pain in the epic, swelling "The Time Has Come." "A black cloud hovers over the horizon / I'm praying hard while feathers float / the man of sorrows dances on the ocean / I'm still too feint of heart to leave the boat / the time has come to realize forgiveness / the time is now to forgive somebody else / we can't undo the damage done / the day is new / here comes the sun / the time has come to forgive your sorry self."
You aren't likely to hear a heartbreaking subject like divorce treated with this level of transparency from a standpoint of faith in many places. Bloodshot is a heartbreaking and moving listen, with a veteran band's level of attention to detail. The music fits the theme just right, and while it might be a tough listen for many, it is an important conversation that The Choir puts to music beautifully. With the depth of a fine film, this veteran band keeps moving forward through all the mine fields that life in our fallen world has to offer.- Review date: 5/30/18, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Galaxy21 Music
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