Todd Agnew

Better Questions

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Todd Agnew is serious about his Christianity, and he's serious about prodding his co-religionists to move beyond what he calls the "everything is fine" attitude and start truly engaging with some difficult questions about their place and proper function in a corrupt world. Hence, the album's title. But while his heart is obviously in the right place, the musical expression of his heartfelt sentiments on this, his fourth release, is problematic in several ways. The first problem is his vocal delivery, a singing style that crosses the gravelly portentousness of Nick Cave with the over-chewed vowels of Brad Roberts (of the Crash Test Dummies). Then there are the melodies, which are all attractive enough, but none of them is particularly inspiring or even very hooky. There are some great guitar sounds on this album: "Least of These" makes a serious bid for awesome heavyosity, and it pretty much gets there; "Family," on the other hand, layers funky rubber-band guitar with equally funky clavinet and organ, and it sounds great too. (The reggae attempt, however, just sounds awkward and clunky.) But even when the songs boast a great sound, they almost never really take flight -- if you're going to build an anthemic sound, you need inspiring choruses to go with them, and those are sadly lacking on this album. The last straw is the overweening preachiness of too many of these songs -- check out "Peace on Earth" and "Family," for example. He probably doesn't mean these to sound as self-righteous as they do, but that just makes him a good guy. It doesn't make this a good album.

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