a forgotten genre deserving of attention

Brow Beat: Unplugged Alternative (Alarma)

Various artists

By Robert Gruber

A sub-genre in contemporary Christian music, Christian alternative, like its secular counterpart, has taken a number of years to garner the attention it deserves. Along the way, this passionate new strain has managed to light a fire under some of CCM's more open-minded elite, to the point where stalwarts like Rich Mullins, Wayne Watson and the always inventive Phil Keaggy are incorporating "alternativisms" into their already successful stylings. Now, with bands like Dakoda Motor Co. and the 77s actually showing on the CCM charts, it would appear that Christian alternative has arrived.

One good way to sample the new sounds is to check out Brow Beat – eleven bands, some new, some veteran, each performing one song in that oh-so-popular "unplugged" format. Most notable are Poor Old Lu, a new band from Seattle, who insert a Chris Wood-style flute into the tastefully funky "Drenched Decent," and "Dig Hay Zoose," who groove and jive on "Keep Me In Mind," sounding similar to Love Jones.

Several of the bands (L.S.U., The Choir, The Throes, Undercover) offer moodier outings that fit their respective sounds well. Arguably 'he centerpiece of Brow Beat is "Will Have To Do For Now" by Terry Taylor (DA/Swirling Eddies). Awash in Pet Sounds harmonies and "Strawberry Fields"-style cello, this melancholy song mines the retro-psychedelic vein to good effect. Mortal, a band known for its aggro-metal industrial sound, tums in a surprisingly lush ballad, "Bleed," that veers frightfully toward Manilow territory.

In all these songs, the message is subtle, poetic and devoid of cliché, but the spirit is undeniable. Brow Beat is a winner, an excellent introduction to Christian alternative.