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October 5, 2010

2

Passion, Drive and Provocation: The Arrows’ debut album Make Believe

by quaesitor

I’d never heard about The Arrows until I noticed a tiny, one para review of their debut album Make Believe in CT. I don’t think I’ve ever got hooked on an album as the result of reading a CT review before – I actually listen to very little specifically CCM (contemp Christian music). But the review somehow stood out enough to  intrigue. So I had a listen and was immediately won over.

Here is energy, creativity, passion – and most refreshingly, a near total avoidance of Christian musical cliché. This innovative South African duo is made up of Pamela De Menezes (on vocals and keyboards and she also gets song-writing credits) and Christie Desfontaine (on drums). And I detected all kinds of different musical influences – even more than the CT reviewer had space to mention. Not only is there techno and electronic dance stuff in there, but cabaret, big band, jazz, gospel, stylish 60s Italian movies and prog rock get thrown into the mix! At moments I could hear the likes of Sade, Seal, Annie Lennox and even the Kings of Leon and the gloriously iconoclastic Neil Hanlon’s The Divine Comedy (which I simply adore despite myself).

This is not of course to disparage by comparison. Far from it. The history of popular music is all about which giant’s shoulders new generations are standing on. But what I just loved more than anything else is that it doesn’t sound all soppy and Christian too often characterised by anodyne lyrics and easy musical resolutions (I know that’s pretty generalised but it’s how I feel about a lot of it). This just sounds like great, well-crafted music. With provocative and challenging lyrics. Which is as it should be.

There is a driving energy behind their questioning faith – the album is about trusting God in the midst of an unpredictable and bewildering fallen world – and that of course resonates strongly with me (as the Quaerentia agenda makes clear). This is a faith that gets angry when it should and yet always stays the right side of trusting. But there are also moments of great tenderness and empathy (like in the title track Make Believe or Ode to a Patient God). I didn’t always agree 100% with the theology: the intro track No Robot’s is an arresting song but rather too influenced by Open Theism for my tastes; and I raised an eyebrow at the thought of human beings existing for only 6000 years in Ode to a Patient God! (Incidentally, those unfamiliar with South Africa probably don’t realise that robots are what South Africans call traffic lights!) But I just loved the passion, sincerity and grappling with big issues of truth and contemporary culture. It’s far better to stab at that than avoid it altogether (again as too much Christian music seems to do). To top it all, their lyrics are almost like poetic assault on the senses, full of challenging ideas and images.

My standouts are:

  • Their passionate plea for people to wake up from their complacency and Chardonnay to see what is really going on in Africa and indeed the world – from mass abortions to carjackings and phone thefts in SA, scary scientific advances like cloning and nuclear technology. The songs that most powerfully convey this are Entropy and World Interrupted.
  • Their articulation of bewildering faith but a determination to cling on – in Walking on Water.
  • An appeal for a non-believing friends at least to give God a second thought – in One for the Brothers.

So check it out – a fantastic album. It’s available on Amazon as an mp3 download.

To give a bit of a flavour, and because their lyrics don’t seem to have been recorded online anywhere yet, I typed up World Interrupted though am pretty sure I didn’t get everything very accurately (I’ve left a couple of blanks where i couldn’t quite get it).

Sorry, please, excuse me.
Has anyone else noticed that the world’s gone crazy?
I mean it’s bad, but it’s a fact,
they’re cloning babies with animals to see what we can get
if we mess with natural law
Oh so super smart, but really who is it for?

So, while they’re cloning and sending rockets into space
Millions of children, well they’ll be trafficked, they’ll be slaves,
and we’ll be sipping our semi-chilled Chardonnay and say
‘Oh it’s such a shame, exactly who are we supposed to blame?’
Well what do we gain if we gain it all,
just more and more, till we lose our soul?

So how much more can the soul can it take,  groaning underneath our selfish ways?
After all, after all, it’s … to say for ourselves
between all the nothing and all of the world
Between all the love, the loss and the stealth
Everyone needs some kind of help
.

Yesterday the news said, ‘a pregnant man was giving birth’,
and maybe tomorrow there’ll be no oil for us to burn
But for today they say they’re testing nuclear missiles in case
Well just in case, in case of what?
In case all your fighting doesn’t stop?
So while you’re talking, and shaking hands and launching your missiles
Somewhere a rich man is popping pills to stay alive
He just lost everything just in an instant,
in a flash, just crashed, oh the markets screamed,
quick sell the house, hurry, mortgage our dreams
And just down the road a teenage tragedy
And a pregnant brownie brought to you by MTV

So how much more can the soul can it take,  groaning underneath our selfish ways?
After all, after all, it’s … say for ourselves
How much more can this soul take, groaning underneath our selfish ways?
After all, after all it’s … to say for ourselves
Between all the progress and all of the hell,
Between all the slums and all the hotels
Everyone needs some kind of help

Out of the dust surely dawn will arise
out of the ground our hope will ignite
Out of the night the truth will endure
Calling the end until the office appear

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 12 2011

    I too cannot find the lyrics anywhere online. In fact, while searching for a site, I came across this post. While I can understand the majority of the lyrics, there are a few moments where I don’t know. I do suggest these changes to the lyrics above:
    “So how much more can this old earth take groaning under our selfish ways?”
    “After all, after all, you’d swear we’d more to say for ourselves”
    “Another girl pregnant proudly brought to you by MTV”

    Great post though! I too was kinda surprised to hear 6000 years in “Ode to a Patient God” (even though it is my favorite song on the album). I disagree that “No Robots” is influenced by open theism, however. While I can see why you’d think that, I actually hear more C.S. Lewis in that song than open theism, specifically the end of “Mere Christianity”.

    Reply

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