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Lose This Life - Click to view!Toby McKeehan has been saying lately that dc Talk won't be making albums together again until they're "desperate" to do so. He has plenty of motivation to say such things, of course, since he runs a successful record label of his own, and of the three dc Talk members, his solo project has sold the best. But it was painfully obvious after listening to all three of the dc Talk solo albums released in 2001 that the group was and will likely always be better together than when segmented into their component parts. McKeehan's album was solid but really only had one standout track ("Extreme Days"), and Kevin Smith's effort was too weird and inaccessible to please many listeners. Michael Tait's project, Empty, was perhaps the best and most consistent, however, and I was expecting good things from him and his bandmates. But their follow-up, Lose This Life, is disappointing. If you're looking for evidence that dc Talk really (really really really) ought to get back together, look no further.

Lose This Life has all of the trappings of the first Tait album—the notion that the band is the Philadelphia 76ers of the CCM world (a collection of role players built around one superstar) is very apparent, and the songs are sometimes formulaic—but lack the virtuosity of former guitarist and producer Pete Stewart that saved the last album from mediocrity. Stewart's big, meaty, ear-popping riffs have been replaced for the U2-ish, effects-driven work of Justin York, which takes the band from being progressive and original to retro and run-of-the-mill.

This is most apparent on the title track, which opens the album. While its message is a worthy one-dying to self and living for Christ is the way to joyful and fulfilling living-it sounds too similar to Joshua Tree-era U2 to please this listener. "Numb," track 2, is a step in the right direction, with Linkin Park-esque riffs and featuring Rob Beckley (Pillar), but Tait again sounds more like a cover band than as the truly original group they seemed to be in the Pete Stewart age. This is a common complaint about Christian bands, of course, but it needs to be mentioned here: Tait seems more content to recycle Top 40 modern rock stuff than to head in a direction that's entirely their own.

There are some redeeming qualities to the album, however. "Fallen," for example, is a heart-wrenching and poignant piano ballad that represents the saving power of Christ in a way that will likely affect a good number of listeners, and "God Can You Hear Me," "Reconnecting" and most of the second half of the album is solid (though unspectacular). But tracks like "Electric Avenue" (a cover of the Eddie Grant song) and the bonus track, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," are simply too cheesy to have warranted being selected for the album. Moreover, they underscore a theme that runs through this record: unoriginality.

It has been said that, after being together for a while, certain bands stay together "for the music" in the same way that some parents stay together for their kids. I'm hoping quite strongly that dc Talk will reunite and do the same. Let's get over this separation thing, guys, and get back to making the music you were meant to make.
- Ben Forrest
January 2004
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