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REACHING (2002)
Reaching - Click to view!The signs of the times show that Christian pop is headed nowhere. In spite of a few very gifted individuals, like Wes King and Nichole Nordeman, the majority of artists get worse by the season, producing pre-fabricated albums of cheese. Now it seems that LaRue, a brother/sister duo I once had much respect for, is dangerously close to joining those ranks. Their third release, Reaching, is sufficient evidence of these claims, and here's why.

First of all, Reaching doesn't seem up to par with LaRue's previous two records. The entire album seems rushed and is very shoddily put together. Moreover, there are no real stand-out heavy pop tracks outside of "Tonight," which features a dance-vibe bass influence. Natalie and Phillip sing out about their desire to live for God, crying out for Him and asking Him to work in their lives and through their music. It's the catchiest track on the album, with near-perfect harmonies and excellent production work. Additionally, "Summertime" is a mediocre summery ballad, mid-tempo and upbeat. Like many Christian love songs, it can be sung either to God or a significant other, and it serves as a nice companion piece to "Tonight." The same cannot be said for the rest of the album. Most of the songs have no depth to them at all and never move past the shallow "God is really big and good" message. "OK To Cry," for example, repeats the chorus line "It's okay to cry, and it's okay to wonder why," over and over several times during the song's course, but leaves it at that without delving any further into the topic of suffering. Furthermore, several of the tracks are either over or underproduced. One such track is "Unite," which sounds bare minimalist with its melodies. It wholly feels stiff and monotone, and Phillip and Natalie's harmonies are terrible and often mistimed. To further elaborate, "Lift Up" begins and ends as a crawling, laid-back pop song with a unique tropical flavor. Suddenly, smack-dab in the middle of the song, an out-of place rock and roll interruption occurs, complete with crunching guitars and a short pounding drum loop. And it's great, better than most interludes I've heard, but why? It spans about 7 seconds, upon which it sinks back into the song's normal melody. Such spontaneity might be viewed as a good thing, but in this case it's simply uncalled for.

Reaching will undoubtedly serve both young and old listeners. It has enough of the power pop that youth enjoy, but adults will appreciate how deep the album dwells into Adult Contemporary territory. However, LaRue's surplus of talent just seems to dwindle with every album they release. Reaching is their lowest point so far. Unless they come upon some major inspiration and put out some songs that sound a little different for a change, their future as recording artists appears grim.
- Rick Foux
August 2002
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