Yes, the Newsboys are indeed back with a new album! This one hits the streets tomorrow, September 10th. "Restart" marks the third studio album for Michael Tait, frontman of the band (replacing the iconic Peter Furler) as well as an exploration of some new sounds for the 'Boys.
Following the well-received "Born Again" and "God's Not Dead", fans have been anticipating another great batch of Newsboys songs - so how does this new album one stack up? Let's go though the songs one by one...
"That's How You Change the World" immediately hits you with a cool dance drop and a bouncy, throbbing electronic sound, signifying the flavor present in much of the album to come. Initially I felt like "That's How You Change The World" was an indeed an original song, but I was listening to the remix of it. I think this was my reaction to my having not heard the Newsboys really do this type of song before (not counting the 2 remix CDs they've released), but having listened to the song multiple times, I've really gotten into it! Perhaps even better than musical components are the inspiring, thoughtful lyrics - which I won't spoil here, but do carry an insightful message. I'm was more than happy on this song to have my expectations been given a "restart".
"Restart" is an infectiously catchy anthem, and one you could definitely dance to. The "You, You, You hit the Restart" chorus is certainly fun to sing. You can tell they had fun assembling this song with all it's beeps, drops, and echoes. A worthy title song. I hope to eventually get a video game themed music video for this one.
"Love Like I Mean It" has a unique sound and a bit of a new wave influence that helps it stand out a bit from the other songs. It's got a good musical groove to it, complimented nicely by Michael's smooth and silky vocals. The song serves well as a reminder for believers to do more than talk about love, but to live it out in tangible ways, even if it takes us out of our "safe zone". It encourages us to "love with abandon" if you will - which points us to the next song...
"Live With Abandon" is a more conventional song, one which would not feel out of place in the Peter Furler era of the Newsboys. I could see it being used in churches pretty easily. I do think Tait's vocals do elevate this song to a higher level, as do
the musical and vocal contributions from Duncan, Jody, and Jeff - I'm
sure I'm hearing Jeff's voice in there... It's a good song with a good message - one we should all think about - it's just not an exceptional stand-out song for my tastes.
"Go Glow" is a tune in the tradition of "Shine" and "When The Boys Light Up", exhorting believers to go out into the world and reflect the light of God. It's musically and lyrically reminiscent of Owl City, which I think is actually pretty cool. The chorus goes; "He wakes up the stars, lights the moon, knows who you are, he put light in you... Go Glow" This song, along with "Restart", probably share the title of "most fun song on the album".
"That Home" - Okay, I'll tell you right now, this song made me cry. This piano ballad is a welcome break in the middle of the album. It's a heartfelt song about a mother's love, sung softly and sincerely by Tait. You just have to hear it. Wow
"Disaster" is another good one. It's got a fast beat, but poignant message. It's a cry for God's restoration and mercy when we have inevitably messed up our lives."You're the cure".
"Fishers of Men" is a face paced yet fun song about, well, being Fishers of Men of course.
"One Word" is a more instrumentally driven song, featuring inspiring lyrics about God's power. Not a bad song at all.
"Enemy" could be my favorite of the album. I love the sound, and the message of this song. Each of the band members are allowed to shine - the piano, the guitars, the drums, the melody, the construction of the song - all wonderful! Michael sings the powerful lyrics with passion and honesty. I keep humming this song to myself, it's a real triumph if you ask me.
"We Believe" a fairly standard yet unapologetic praise song, a nice anthem for followers of Christ. Not one you're going to be tapping your toes to, but a great song to build your faith and draw strength from in times of distress. I wouldn't be surprised if this one makes it's way into churches everywhere. The female choir of background singers do border on cheesy - the Newsboys hit "He Reigns" pulled off the choir thing much more successfully, but I don't want strain on this gnat too much.
Final Thoughts - If I had to guess, I'd say the breakout songs from this album will be "Restart", "Live With Abandon", and "Enemy". As usual, each song points unmistakably to the Father, and true to form, they reject being merely "positive pop", and thankfully make no attempt shy away from the name of Jesus.
Once again, Tait's smooth vocals make it seem easy, and he's in fine form here. Duncan Phillips is as good as always, and I'm looking forward to discovering all the neat stuff Jeff Frankenstein got to program and synthesize, with his keys and BG vocals to boot. Jody Davis is also a total pro, though I'm still waiting for a song where they put Jody - a superb vocalist in his own right - front and center on lead vocals; maybe next time.
For years I have wished for a Newsboys album with more of an electronic dance feel to it, and this really scratches that itch. I hope they take some of this electronic flavor with them into the future, even if a more predominantly rock sound (in the vein of "Born Again") is what I think makes sense for the next album.
4 out of 5 stars
Note; "God's Not Dead" had a cool album cover, I wish they had been as creative this time.
Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on Restart!
P.S. I've now heard the 5 Deluxe Version tracks as well! "Man on Fire" and Mike and the Mechanics cover "The Living Years" are real standouts, awesome stuff!