Lifehouse release explores faith issues

10/2/2007

Lifehouse: Who We Are

By Steve Morley
UMC.org

After emerging from California’s Vineyard Church into the mainstream, bearing songs with veiled Christian references, modern rockers Lifehouse quickly generated controversy over whether they were technically a faith-based band.

To some degree, that distinction is as much a marketing label as a benchmark of belief, though a self-proclaimed "Christian" musician generally works with straightforward scriptural concepts. Lifehouse vocalist and creative helmsman Jason Wade is a professing believer who just as strongly believes in keeping his messages universal, a penchant that limits the spiritual sensibility on Lifehouse’s newly released Who We Are.

When Wade does approach matters of faith on songs like Disarray and Broken, he doesn’t cater to the current interests of non-secular radio, openly addressing prickly issues like emotional pain and spiritual struggle.

Although its Christian worldview is often understated, Who We Are is an intelligent attempt at exploring issues affecting the hearts and minds of listeners in the twenty- and thirty-something range. The band’s appeal could spread into a slightly higher demographic, thanks to lyrical maturity and the accessible melodic quality brought to the table by producer Jude Cole. His contributions to Lifehouse’s latest disc inject a dose of ‘80s-refracted light and sonic spaciousness to songs that still meet the intensity requirements of the current generation.

The propulsive pop-rocker First Time is one of several relationship-oriented cuts that move beyond typical love song clichés. Here, "first time" refers to the sobering awareness that mature love requires vulnerability, sacrifice and effort – a responsibility that, as the lyric explains, distinguishes serious commitment from youthful romantic discovery.

Storm, while it provides musical calm, finds Wade flailing in choppy waters as he works his way through turmoil to a growing sense that rescue is nearby, despite his inability to see it with earthly eyes. The track, reminiscent of 1990s-era Jars of Clay, carries a sound spiritual message and offers welcome relief in the form of a more relaxed and emotional vocal from Wade, whose gritty, stylized singing lacks nuance on rockier offerings.

Compared to other secular rock bands, Lifehouse can be considered a relatively positive force. Bible-believing listeners, though, may question why the recurring topic of identity never encounters the foundational idea of being a new creation in Christ on Who We Are, an album that speaks to "we" in the broadest possible sense of the word.