blazing swan song

PFR (Vireo)

By Robert Gruber

Apparently, PFR's guitar amps have developed the feedback sickness. Known for producing smoothly harmonious, Beatlesque pop with a rock edge, PFR turns up the volume a bit on Them, their fourth (and supposedly last) album. The first song, "Pour Me Out" begins noisily, then becomes a lumbering groove as singer/guitarist Joel Hansen illustrates a key point of Scripture: "Pour me out/'til there's nothing left of me . . . I want to lose myself in finding You." "Daddy Never Cried" finds drummer Mark Nash in full-out cymbal crashing rock mode, in a song that recalls Bibleland-era Daniel Amos.

Longtime fans of the trio need not fear, however, that their boys have exchanged smart pop sensibilities for gratuitous grunge — songs like "Fight," "Face to Face," "Say" and "Ordinary Day" with its slight swipes of orchestration, find PFR rooted firmly in the mainstream. The big surprise is that bassist Patrick Andrew turns in lead vocals on just under half the songs on the album. This is a mixed blessing — although Andrew's voice blends nicely with Hansen's, by himself he tends to slip into a faux British accent that is somewhat cheeky for one who hails from Minneapolis. On the title track, a moody, kettle-drummed meditation on the wrong influences that "they" can have on our lives (as in "they say"), Andrew intones the lyric with measured insistence: "the media mediates between the masses and the myth it creates/but it never knows the damage grows the more it bends the truth."

Produced once again by Nashville mastermind Jimmie Lee Sloas, Them is yet another fine entry into PFR's catalog of great Christian pop/rock. Should this prove to be their swan song effort together, as rumors persist, then it's good that they go out blazing. They will be missed . . .