In the late 90s, there was a widespread massacre that happened in the music industry. The powers that were decided to put the melodic structure of a song to death. Instead of allowing the strong melodies to drive a song's appeal, sampling, beats and hipness became the warp and the woof. As a result as a built-in lethargy was birthed in many songwriters, as long as a song could be sampled a day's job was done. Unfortunately, such slothfulness has slipped into contemporary Christian music too. Songs started to sound the same save for the hype and beats. But thank God for groups like the Advice. Instead of relying on overstuffed poly-technicalities, they have decided to return to the mother's milk of fine song writing: prescient melodic structures. Trimming away the extra calories of any hyped out sonic trinkets, the songs are toned, tight and packed with well crafted words and tunes. Starting with Jared and Matt Houston with their buddy Jeff Madden on bass, they had started playing together at coffeehouses and churches since their high school days. By 2007, the Advice began to congeal with its identity crystallized. With Jeff Madden on bass, Aaron Bowen on keys, Sanchez Fair on drums, and guitars by the Houston brothers with Matt taking on lead vocals. This, their eponymous album, is their debut for Inpop Records (JJ Weeks Band, Jaci Velasquez and Tricia Brock).
Charging right out of the gates is lead single "You Give Me." Quipped with a bouncy hook-laden melody and adorned with a sparkling bright pop production, "You Give Me" celebrates the freedom we have in Christ: "You give me what I need/break all the chains off me/So take this brokenness and set me free/from all that is me." You will find it a challenge not to want to hum along with the ultra-melodious "Love Like That." Splicing together their Southern roots of story telling with their own brand of pop/rock, "Love Like That" recounts a story of how the boys were challenged about loving others after an encounter with a homeless man. More narratives are shared with "Holding on to You." This heart wrenching ballad tells of a late night phone call informing that the protagonist's father was dying and how Jesus was his only hope, "Holding On to You" is a signature song for anyone who has been desperate for God before.
Just with any great music, it is often built on the shoulders of others. Steeped in the bluesy traditions of the 70s soul, the inspirational "The Sun's Gonna Shine" has traces of the Motown greatness. While the brassy horns of "Your Light Shines" remind us of the classic sounds that used to graced the early records of Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross. "His Name is Jesus" gives a nod back to the rustic roots of Southern Gospel made especially enthralling with the Advice's tight harmony work. Creativity and imagination are at fore with the metaphorical "All A Raindrop Knows." If you think that poetry is dead in today's Christian music, this beautifully worded ballad where falling in love with Jesus is gorgeously compared with a falling raindrop.
A little out of place though is "Collide." "Collide" starts off as a slow bluesy ballad with an atmospheric sound before crashing into a rock explosion. It is not bad, just one would somehow wish for a piano ballad instead. Nevertheless, with an album this good, the Advice is one of the newer bands that deserve to be widely heard. Despite the youthfulness of the group, they have set a template of what great song writing ought to sound like. Great tunes, tight harmonies and Christ centered lyrics, what better advice can you give?