Mass Appeal?: Why I am Not Excited About the New (and last) David Crowder Band Album

Last week David Crowder Band released their last album Give Us Rest or (a requiem mass in c [the happiest of all keys]), which is in fact structured after a Catholic requiem mass. It is a double album that consists of 34 tracks. It is epic and is a grand final statement from a band that has done much to expand what we think worship music should sound like and how we should use words when singing to and about God (You can read my extensive review of the album here).

And yet I am nearly all but unenthused about this release. In fact, I am pretty skeptical that it will be any good—at least on a very particular level. Let me explain why by asking and then attempting to answer a very simple question:

Why does(did) the David Crowder Band exist?

Was it simply to 1.) make worship-ful music that generally glorified God in its musical artistry and through vertically focused lyrics, or was it to 2.) make "Church Music," that is, music the church can sing? Because if it was the latter it is my belief that apart from a few scattered songs they all but failed at that aim. And of those songs will any of them even endure on to other generations? Of course from our vantage point it is impossible to tell, but I would say most likely not. One of the sad ironies of their 2009 album Church Music is there was barely anything on that album the church could actually use--and that is not a good prognosis for a work with a title such as that and which consists of 17 tracks and way over an hour of music. While obviously performed and recorded with great musical excellence, it for the most part is a bloated and bland album, with music and lyrics that lack any punch. (The only song on there I would actually have a congregation sing during worship is "Shadows," as I was never really a fan of the popular John Mark McMillan tune "How He Loves.") (You might ask "How can he think songs like "God Almighty, None Compares" or "Oh, Happiness" are bland?" Well, it is really hard to defend subjective musical experiences, so I can really only answer by saying "I don't know! I just didn't find them interesting, despite the noted ambitious attempt.")

Please hear on me this. I am not saying David Crowder Band's music is not "worship music," I am simply saying that most of it will never find its way into churches, which to me is always the most important criteria for labeling anything as "worship music." To be sure, as artists they have done much in attempt to redefine the worship genre. They talk about God differently than in "typical" worship songs (of which there is no such thing) and they have a lot of songs that make you want to dance (i.e., they fully encourage us to embrace an incarnational [see: holistic] understanding of corporate worship). However my contention is that in their attempt to do something new, they have not actually left us with much that is usable.

I am pretty conventional to when it comes to what constitutes church music: 1. the music has to be singable but enduring and 2. the lyrics need to be approachable but at the same time theologically and literarily excellent. It is not very often that Crowder's music fits into this sweet spot. My favorite songs of his are usually too complex musically or too abstract lyrically to be sung in church, and the songs that actually are simple and approachable lack substance both musically and lyrically. In other words, it is great music and usually a lot of fun, but it just will not find a place in the worship repertoire of most churches.

Again, please hear me on this. I love this band and have been a long time fan. I think I am simply lamenting the fact that someone so talented has left the church with so little to actually sing. The same exact thing could be said for another "worship" band, Deliriou5?, who, for the latter 75% of their career gave the Church next to nothing to sing on a Sunday morning (but that's for another blog post).

As to the first answer of the question I posed above (that of making God-glorifying art) I would say they entirely succeeded. I think a decent chunk of every one of their albums has given us some great musical moments. Apart from the peculiarly obligatory "youth-group-song" and "Christian-radio-friendly-adult-contemporary-song" present on basically every album (record company pressure? enduring royalty checks? or simply an appeal for more mass appeal?) they are among the best "Christian" rock bands of the new millenium. This is why even though I am not holding my breath for a lot of congregation-ready songs on Give Us Rest, I am expecting to be blown away musically.

By choice I have not listened to a single second of the album yet and am expectantly awaiting its arrival in the mail (yes, I purchased a real physical copy of the album). So heres to being proved wrong! Hope still prevails...

You can find an interview Christianity Today did with David Crowder here. He discusses the album, the end of the band, and hints at what he will do in the future.

Last night I surveyed through every single one of DCB's songs in an attempt to decide which ones I found to be "congregational." So here's my list (because you REALLY wanted to know):

You Alone
Our Love is Loud
Wonderful King
Thank You For Hearing Me*
O Praise Him (All This For a King)
All Creatures of Our God and King*
Only You*
Come and Listen
Here is Our King
The Glory of it All
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing*

What would make your list? Remember, I'm looking for songs a congregation would sing.

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