post-modern, Christian alternative dream

Speckled Bird (R.E.X.)
The Choir

By Robert Gruber

Taking seven tracks from last year's successful indie-only release Kissers and Killers, the Choir has added five new songs, done a bit of tinkering and remixing and come up with Speckled Bird, their first full-length disc in four years. Far from sounding like a demo grab-bag, though, this new "bird" is a cohesive, rocking-good package that finds the band firmly focused, a more solid unit than they've probably ever been.

Singer/guitarist Derry Daugherty has come up with quite an unusual array of processed noise to run his tasteful guitar playing through. The sounds throb, swell, squeal, and bounce between the speakers and between the ears, reminding me a lot of. . . .well, an acid trip. Not that this is psychedelic music, by any means -- The Choir is still everyone's post-modern pop-alternative dream; just a bit noisier, that's all.

In stark contrast to the music is Daugherty's singing -- direct, controlled, even; nary a one calculated scream, howl or layer of reverb to make up for a lack of anything to say.

Of course, with drummer/percussionist Steve Hindalong providing his usual outstanding brand of lyrical expression, there's plenty to chew on. Consider this line from "Kissers and Killers": "Bones and ladder/Somehow rhyming/Man of Sorrows hanging/Iscariot swinging/A curious polarity." Or this, from the title track: "You blow the candle out/you take a shovel to my head/Hey, I appreciate that sound/A true tone resonating/So now I'm less alive than dead".

Arguably the best cut on Speckled Bird is "Grace" -- a seminarian research paper could reach tome-size trying to get down the hermeneutics of the lyric; the music is dark, grinding, ominous. Perfect dinner music for a last meal.

Speckled Bird is a strange, exotic and unusual bird indeed, much like the Choir themselves. For many years an influence on younger bands in the Christian alternative scene, it appears that they, in turn, are being influenced by those same young bands. And, with this disc, they could easily go on to influence yet another generation.