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COMING TO LIFE (2000)
Coming to Life - Click to view! Demonstrative and undeviating, the Normals show they're Coming to Life in this 12-track, 56-minute safari of soul and spirit. Ragged, returning vagrants are the subject of "Every Moment," a homage to the abusive, abundant life we live. A homegrown song whose harmonica riffs stick with you like glue, "The Best I Can" sees chancy weather, unspoken prayers, and future family as a collage of everything that's joy. Infectious rhythm similar to their debut propels track three as it lures a "Black Dress" before listeners, relating "my temptation's on the stairway ~ My temptation's at the door ~ My temptation is before me." Owning up to "drowning in desire" isn't usual fare for Christian music, but frontman/songwriter Andrew Osenga commits to a whole-souled view of life, not giving voice to superficial Christian slang. A reverent chorale that mourns the church's despondency, "We Are the Beggars at the Foot of God's Door" tussles with truth and jousts with judgment. The penultimate Coming to Life single, "Don't Hold Back," unmasks the ghosts of relationships, slipping into a lung-straining scream of a refrain that urges giving all every moment. Following up the previous disillusion by calling for "No Alibis," the next journal entry grapples with a closed heart, finding that "torn and bruised" means "full." While bass and drums chug along with locomotive-like backbeat, the volitant words of "These Times" sing a love song from God, a melody that lasts through denial and dirtiness. Unlike any other song on the disc, the quirky, boy-bandish cut "Two Wrongs and a Right" keeps tabs on both sides of a guy/girl fling, suggesting true love searches beyond good looks. Once given license to do open heart surgery, Jesus resuscitates an empty, lethargic man on the halting title track. With a firm clamp on eternity's promise of unity, "Heaven Heals" collects thoughts on the place where grace starts: "when we're both lost ~ then God is found." The closer saddens with wrenching realization that "all I am is the sum of my habits," until tears of joy fall at the good King's surety that "I Am and I Am Love." The usual impediments of alternative albums don't turn up on this CD; Coming to Life is instead a memoir of the nonchalant yet noteworthy, cowardly yet comedic thing we call life based on faith.
- Josh M. Shepherd
August 2000
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