[29 January 2012]
John Mark McMillan skirts many of the norms when it comes to modern Christian rock, and it is a bigger genre than most people realize. For those who are unfamiliar, the differences between the music of John Mark McMillan and his counterparts like Hillsong or the David Crowder Band are McMillan’s abilities to summon a deeper sense of poetry and an authentic voice amidst a genre that is is full of copycats. His latest album Economy continues to evoke timeless sentiments of spiritual longing tied to the Christian story. The basic song structures on Economy are mostly compelling and certainly emotional. His raw abandon and guitar driven anthems borrow heavily from Bruce Springsteen territory and travel through valleys of post-rock. This is a fine rock record, but the influences are, at times, so obvious that they are distracting. Examples of this include the crack of the Max Weinberg snare on “Sheet of Night” and the Arcade Fire meets U2 jangle of “Seen a Darkness” and “Economy”. Nevertheless, he does succeed in combining these elements in a way that seems natural to the tension and release exemplified in many of the tunes. The gritty vocals are what really succeed at ransoming Economy from mediocrity. This is American rock couched in terms of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. McMillan’s take on gospel music may not appeal to those who believe in the separation of church and music, but this record is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Economy contains hopeful strains that do not go out of their way to gloss over the human condition.