Thursday, January 29, 2009

Music Review: Zendher "Moving Up"

out of 5

I listened to this cd quite a few times as I have been thinking about reviewing it. Being a musician, I am probably more sensitive and gracious about music reviews than I am about other things. The first thing that I want to say about this band is that I admire their talent. For the most part, it is clear and obvious that they are very good at what they do. Unfortunately, as hard as I try, that's about the only good thing that I can come up with to say. I should lay out a few prejudices before I go any further, because I'm sure they will affect this review.

Prejudice #1
I really don't like Christian music. Some of it is ok, some of it is even good, but most of it that I have heard is pretty terrible from a musical point of view as well as a theological one. I'm not going to get into too much of this right now, but I have spent a lot of time in the "Christian" music scene as well as the "non-christian" (I guess) music scene. What I have learned is that there is not always much difference between the two scenes and "Christian" Bands are profiting on the perception that there is a difference. I also just disagree with using the word "Christian" as an adjective, especially when it comes to music.

Prejudice #2
I have spent a lot of time analyzing, writing, and recording music. There are things that are very important to me when it comes to music that are not found on this cd. They are: a solid grove and consistency within a song and over the space of an album. Problems in these areas stand out to me and bug me a lot.

With all this said, this band "Zendher" had the cards stacked against them from the beginning with me. The style of music is pretty inconsistent and it is definitely Christian music. I do have to say that theologically, it seemed fine and didn't bug me like most Christian music does. The talent and this pleasant surprise earned the second star in the rating. Now the stuff I didn't like...

The songs seemed to change styles in the middle and the groove was completely altered in the middle of a song at times. The vocals seemed silly at times and didn't sound authentic. This could have been a problem in the mix or whatever, it just had a very fake sound at times. The band had a kind of African and reggae feel at times and reminded me of Paul Simon sometimes, Bob Marley, and the Dave Matthews band at others. The problem is that there is no way that they even came close to emulating those amazing artists. It is a problem when it sounds so much like people that I think of them and comparison is inevitable. It kind of sounded like a cheaper rip off of these brilliant artists. It was way too much like those influences way too often. I am also very sensitive to Christian stuff being like second class secular stuff, but we are supposed to appreciate it because it is "Christian." Excellence is an important value that we must appreciate. The album itself was so inconsistent that it could have been a compilation of many bands and it would not have shocked me. It didn't establish a genre and nothing seemed to fit. There was no strong groove or hook in any song that did anything for me. I just couldn't see using this in worship or listening to it for pleasure. I even let other people that were into Christian music hear it and they didn't like it either.

I hate giving a negative review of a band and I appreciate the uniqueness and talent of Zendher. I think they just need to work some more on songwriting and their identity before recording another album. After listening, I am more confused about who this band is than before I heard them. I hate to anger the music gods when I have stuff coming out soon myself, but I gotta call it like I see it!