"The Stockholm Syndrome" is the term given to the behavior of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. In Derek Webb's world, the people who have Stockholm Syndrome are those who chose to continue hating others rather than abandoning their prejudice. The premise for Webb's fifth studio and most 'important' project only begins to set the tone for one of the most skillful and edgiest project I have heard in Christian music.
Although Webb has now thoroughly defined himself as a solo artist, over the years he hasn't strayed far from the acoustic/folk rock template that Cademon's Call (Webb is a departed member) has used for years. But now, since he admitted he is bored of acoustic music, Webb takes the Stockholm Syndrome on a totally different path than fans are traditionally used to as he experiments with synthesized beats and electronic pop. Driven by an acoustic guitar, "The Proverbial Gun" is one of the few tracks which doesn't incorporate a major techno influence, but toward the ballad's finish, the tune does take on a light electronic flavor. Only the acoustic, piano-fueled finale "American Flag Umbrella" and the solid ballad "The State" avoid significant programming.
Webb's transition to the electronic flavor, while not perfect, improves the album and proves Webb's creativity can extend beyond folk rock. However, Stockholm Syndrome hits its bumps early with the awkward base in "Black Eye," but Webb turns the song around with its soft, but melodic chorus. The 80's, techno-flavored pop tune "Jena And Jimmy" is good, but "I Love/Hate You" contains a more artistic stroke with the great beat and clever ending hooks. The album could have done without the pop rock (with a hint of hip-hop) "The Spirit Vs. the Kick Drum," and the surprisingly similarly structured "What You Give Up To Get It" doesn't really compliment Webb's creativity. With the exception of the previously mentioned songs, Webb does a remarkable job of offering plenty of listenable, diverse tunes and even adds an epic atmosphere to a few songs, like "Becoming A Slave," which features an innovative interjection of bells to go along with his stellar vocals and a haunting piano. The only drawback to "Becoming A Slave" is the awkward ending which is so out of place and smoothless that it leaves Webb's final word hurting the formula of the tune.
Even though both Webb and INO records agree that the battle for 'artistic freedom' wasn't a publicity stunt, it can't be said that the controversy leading up to Stockholm Syndrome's release wasn't a great way to raise interest for his disc. Webb's and INO (whose roster includes MercyMe, Sara Groves, Disciple, Todd Agnew, and many other artists firmly cemented in CCM) struggle over "What Matters More" and the harsh profanity enclosed on the track delayed the release of Stockholm Syndrome. But the issue was ultimately settled when the two parties decided to release the album under the label without the song (while Webb offers the full, unedited fourteen track version on his website). But, although Webb's insistence to speak his mind may cause tension, insightful songwriting often manifests itself through controversy. And throughout his solo career and clearly on Stockholm Syndrome, it's pretty obvious that controversy has been his friend.
Since Webb has already given up on any saviors on Capitol Hill, in an age where big government is growing, it's not surprising to see Webb nostalgically reminiscing on "The State" on days when 'There was no government without our consent' when we can now do 'the things that offend me' even though Webb knows it's still wrong ('Right and wrong written on my heart, not just in the laws that condemn me'). Webb also takes a conservative position when he sets standards for "agents of the law" saying they 'should always be blind and on time/so there's freedom for everyone.' "Cobra Con" encourages perseverance and love to win out conflict while making a reference to the folly of asking God to bless us in our sin.
Webb speaks of God and spiritual things often, but he never quite brings out hardcore Biblical theology, much less any kind of praise and worship music. In fact, Webb's humorless picture of "Heaven" contains depictions never seen in the Book. After being killed, Webb describes a homeless man who remains homeless and hungry after getting to a rather chaotic depiction of heaven. When Jesus Christ does arrives on the scene, He is seen in his bullet proof car to make sure 'everyone is safe/From the man who tells the truth.' Also, on "Jena And Jimmy" Jimmy's method of presumably trying to get in bed with Jena involves giving her multiple rounds of alcohol at an anti-war protest ('Before she knew it she was up on his chopping block and he was flagging down a taxi'). Other non-explicit sex references surface periodically, and the word "hell" is used as a profanity on "The Proverbial Gun."
Although the rhythm of the heavily electronically based "What Matters More" has a little repetitive beat, the overall swift and fairly catchy track really doesn't sound like a controversial song. But the unmistakable profanity that appears includes the use of the word "d**m" and another harsh profanity (hint: Webb uses it to rhyme with 'sit'). It will be interesting to see how Webb justifies using a word that can't be used around most areas of television and why Webb, a committed Christian, would be using the foul word at all. Speculation has arisen that Webb's use of the "s-word" is to attract attention to the song's lyrics, but the unnecessary use of foul language is what really takes center stage on "What Matters More." On the actual lyrics of the song (because being controversial once in a lone song isn't enough) Webb tackles Christian 'hatred and mistreatment' towards homosexuals. The really good thing about this song is that it points out hypocrisy, and it brings to mind our duty to the lost (In Webb's words: 'Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy') along with reminding all Christians not to get hung up about the wrong things when '50,000 people who are dyin' today.' Fred Phelps, (who hated homosexuals among many other people) is Webb's extreme example of Christian haters in the 1950s throwback "Freddie, Please."
Virtually every song on Derek Webb's album has something thoughtful to say, and it could be said that all of his tracks are really angled at the Church. But the most disconcerting element on the Stockholm Syndrome is not the music or even so much the profanity but Webb's disturbing theology which surfaces multiple times throughout the album (and not just on "What Matters More"). The Stockholm Syndrome is a deeply creative and deeply troubled album which is likely not worth what you give up to get out of it regardless of what version you pick up.- PReview date: 7/15/09, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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