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WIRE (2004)
Wire - Click to view! The most uncommon places often serve as the best songwriting locales. Steven Curtis Chapman came up with the chorus to "Heaven in the Real World" in his vegetable garden. Skillet frontman John Cooper penned bits and pieces of "Rippin' Me Off" while at a Marilyn Manson concert. And Third Day wrote the majority of their fifth studio album, Wire, while dangling over the abyss of CCM mediocrity. After two sub-par forays into pop and worship, Wire was shaping up to be a pivotal moment for the band. Even longtime, faithful fans began to doubt. "Can Third Day still rock? Will they ever return to their roots? Will Rick ever stop dissing them?" The answer to all of these questions is a resounding, gratifying, "YES." Ladies and gentlemen, Third Day is back, and they're making up for lost time.

Wire takes all that is good about Third Day and amplifies it by 600 watts. While it doesn't match Time, Wire will definitely appease Third Day fans who have long been waiting for the next best thing. Sonically, Third Day draws elements from their first three projects and combines them for some amazing tunes. "Til the Day I Die" opens with a recurring chord progression that sounds eerily (and we're assuming purposefully) similar to the one found on "Peace" from their Conspiracy No. 5 album. "It's a Shame," a folksy lament that attempts to dissuade a close friend from giving up on life, resurrects melodies resembling those from "Can't Take the Pain." The comparisons continue as hints of "Have Mercy" and "Did You Mean It" surface in the rugged rocker "I Got a Feeling," complete with Gospel choir and Mac Powell hollering, "Can I get a witness?" Yes, folks, it doesn't get much better than that.

I lied. It gets better. Drawing on prior experience is all well and good, but it doesn't compare to the all-new material Third Day pioneers on this CD. Brad Avery and Mark Lee are the all-stars of "Come on Back to Me," providing sublime guitar harmony during the chorus, and Powell's vocals have never sounded better than on "Innocent," smoothly stretching to previously unheard scales. "Rockstar" and "Billy Brown" are about as raw as the band gets on Wire, using a bit of sarcasm in each to relay the importance of being a positive role model. And as proof that everything producer Paul Ebersold touches turns to gold, the title track is rich with lush string arrangements and well-blended programming. Furthermore, while there is no single wire tying every song together, Lee and Powell's songwriting abilities are at their finest. For example, take Powell's "You Are Mine" — the finest Third Day worship track since "Love Song." Powell is so grieved at the thought of Christ's sacrifice that it breaks his heart, yet it's because of that sacrifice "I can say that I am yours and you are mine." It's a beautiful melody, and Powell's tender vocals add a level of emotional depth that isn't even found on the Offerings albums. In contrast, it's hard to tell if "Til the Day I Die" is written towards God or a significant other, but the lyrics are a bold commitment all the same: "Nobody's ever gonna love you like I am / you never can deny / that nobody's gonna hold you like I am / I'll love you til I die." The biting satire on "Billy Brown" is so clever that it borders on hysterical, and Lee's dramatic metaphor, "Innocent," brings tears to the eyes and a flood of peace to the soul. Finally, "Blind" receives honors as overall best cut on the album. It's paced perfectly — not too soft, not too loud — and Powell's gritty vocals describe a life all listeners can relate to: the life of a lost, desperate seeker before God's intervention. The band really cuts loose at the end, but unfortunately Mac keeps his vocals in check (we really would have loved to hear him strike a high note on the last "blind"). Still, 3D's other members, predominantly Tai Anderson, manage to fire things up while keeping it melodic and organized. It all combines to produce a "WOW" factor unlike any other track on the record. Any listener, regardless of their mood, can find something that speaks to them in "Blind," and the variety of the album guarantees that there's a song for everyone.

As everyone knows, there's no such thing as a perfect album, and Wire is no exception. "I Believe," "San Angelo," and "I Will Hold My Head High" are fairly weak, uninteresting efforts that are best skipped. Still, with ten other superb songs and unique packaging, Wire emerges a winner. To borrow a line from "Billy Brown," "We are all watching and expect / that whatever you are doing next / well, it is gonna be the greatest thing / that we have ever seen." As much as I recommend Wire, it's merely a transitory project for something bigger and better on the horizon. For now, though, let's live in the moment.

Skeptics, rejoice. Third Day has given us a reason to listen again.
- Rick Foux
June 2004

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