The Newsboys originate from the land down under and have become well known for their high energy and flashy live shows. They've made it appear easy to record hit album after hit album while never ceasing to amaze their listeners. Their 2002 album, Thrive is no exception. Their first "normal" studio release since 1998 (1999 saw the release of the fun yet odd LoveLibertyDisco), Thrive reunites the group with songwriter/producer extraordinaire Steve Taylor, who has helped the band record their most amazing and popular of works since their release 10 years ago, Not Ashamed.
At the first listen of their first radio single from Thrive, "It Is You," it's easy to assume the new album will mark yet another pop/rock artist joining the continuous flow of worship records. But at first listen to the album as a whole, it's not exactly the case. "It Is You" is easily one of the most memorable songs on the record and it's infectious worshipful composition makes it extremely easy to worship God to music that's crankable in your stereo. That's not to say the song is a hard-rocking hit, but it's melodic and fresh -- a beautiful sound.
Thrive opens with the aggressive pop/rock tune "Giving It Over." In the first guitar riff it's clear this album is going to be different than usual for the Newsboys. And as you listen to it all the way through, your first impression may be that it sounds nothing like the quintet you know. But after multiple listens, you realize it's still the same guys you love with their amps cranked up just a little higher, and eyes gazing just a little more heavenward. Enters the fun in "Live In Stereo" where this really catchy pop tune tosses in some classic Newsboys whistling into the mix. "Million Pieces" is an even catchier song with an encouragingly joyful look at dropping our burdens and laying them at the feet of Jesus. Something many of us as Christians struggle with.
The title track plays as a prayer to God in the low times in our walk, crying out, "Will You lift me up with tender care? Will You wash me clean in the palm of Your hand? Will You hold me close so I can thrive? When You touch me, that's when I know I'm alive." It's a song I think most can relate to and it fits nicely on the record as "It Is You" follows. "Rescue" is a puzzler for me. The opening guitar is exactly the same opening riff that their song "Praises" uses on their 2000 greatest hits record Shine. The rest of the song is different than "Praises" (thankfully), but it makes me wonder why they chose to copy their own song. (Which reminds me of Jars of Clay copying "4:7" in "Weighed Down" on Much Afraid)
The second half of the record is almost as strong as the first, including the personal favorite "John Woo," a Steve Taylor-penned alternative rock song apparently inspired by the film director John Woo. "Cornelius" is a catchy tune but I found the chorus, where they shout out the name Cornelius, to be a little repetitive and detract from the overall song. "The Fad of the Land" is another good edgy pop/rock tune, while the closer, "Lord (I Don't Know)" is a worthy conclusion to this great collection of songs. I think we can all relate to the prayerful chorus, "Lord, we don't know where all this is going/ Or how it all works out/ Lead us to peace that is past understanding/ A peace beyond all doubt."
With Thrive, the Newsboys have created an edgier selection of songs than normal, but still hold the same fun-loving compositions and feel that listeners have come to know. The lyrics are often easy to relate to or easy to escape with. With time and wear, the Newsboys sure haven't lost it, in fact, they just keep impressing.- Written by John DiBiase, 2002
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