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Beauty From Pain - Click to view! Earlier this year our webmaster, Dan Ficker, took a rare shot at writing a review. Little did he know that the hopes he expressed in closing his review of Superchic[k]'s Regeneration might prove prophetic—the musical maturity demonstrated on that project has carried over to future works. At least it has in their newest release, Beauty From Pain. See, the knock on this talented group, at least in the estimation of cMusicWeb, has been that they aim to please the "bubblegum punk" audience, for lack of a better term. In other words, they've been known to direct their lyrics towards girls with a streak of rebellion mixed with healthy doses of self-consciousness, boy-craziness and tendencies towards the melodramatic.

While not all of that has gone by the wayside, clearly the band is looking to move on to bigger, sometimes darker subjects. Perhaps no better example is to be found than "Courage." Eating disorders are serious business, especially prevalent among young girls, and the group treats this topic with the gravity it demands. The keyboards and programming remind me of the haunting nature of Evanescence's debut album. The lyrics take the listener through the lies and excuses, and the emotional highs and lows of those afflicted in such ways. Yet there is a sense of hope in God expressed in the closing lines, "You should know you're not on your own / These secrets are walls that keep us alone / I don't know when but what I know now / Together we'll make it through somehow." Of a similar nature is the startlingly beautiful title track. Strains of piano and cello combine to provide a sound simultaneously rich and melancholy. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous as to the subject matter. Do they speak about abortion? Rape, perhaps? It's difficult to determine, but the combination of word and music is such that the listener knows that the singer is in turmoil; questioning why God allows her to suffer and yet still clinging to the hope that better days will come.

It would be misleading to insinuate that the entire project is coming from the dark side of life. Celebration of life and the freedom found in God's grace is the subject of "Pure." Words of encouragement come from "Stories (Down to the Bottom)." No matter what's going on in your life, Superchic[k] says, "I promise you that you're not on your own / One day this will pass, God will see us all through." My only problem with this cut is that tobyMac appears on it, which means that it sounds like every other track he's appeared on in the past few years.

As previously mentioned, not all is new and improved on this disc. The opening number is called "Anthem," and it's just that: an anthem to girls everywhere. It rocks, it has a positive message, but it's really just more of the same old stuff we've seen from this group before. "Bowling Ball" is a silly name for a song that uses a light touch on the topic of boyfriends not respecting their girlfriends. I think this might have been a stretch lyrically, too: "You need that boy like a bowling ball dropped on your head / which means not at all." Surely they could have done better than this. These two songs are tracks one and three of ten on the CD, and they sandwich "Pure," so the worst is over by the time you reach track four. It's smooth sailing from there on in.

No one has ever questioned the musicianship or production quality of this group's work. Those same high standards have been met in spades here as well. Aside from the two notable exceptions, and to paraphrase an exciting moment from history, Beauty represents one giant leap forward for (wo-)mankind. It's well worth adding to your collection.
- Scott Bush
January 2006
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