Reviewed by Bert Gangl
Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue
by Jason Gray
"...offers its listeners a veritable bevy of sparkling, consumately-performed compositions."
The great Greek mathematician Pythagoras once said that a person's choices are the very hinges of destiny. Although it's highly doubtful that pop singer Jason Gray's overarching life principles involve algebra or geometry in any fashion, he certainly offers his fans an amazingly broad array of options when it comes to purchasing his sophomore outing, Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue. The more frugal members of the fan base can snag the CD itself for a mere ten spot. Those with a bit more disposable income might want to upgrade to the $30 deluxe edition, which includes the CD, a commemorative t-shirt and a hand-cranked music box that plays the new release's title track. $899 will score the truly intrepid everything in the deluxe package, along with an in-home concert and an autographed pair of red canvas shoes like the ones Gray wears on the new album. And, for a mere $10,000, one truly OCD aficionado will be able to walk away with all of the abovementioned items, Gray's very own acoustic guitar, a guided tour of his home town (Minneapolis) and the keys to his beloved 2001 Ford Windstar minivan.
The good news, though, for consumers not willing to sacrifice junior's freshman year tuition on the granddaddy bundle, is that the CD-only route is still a plentifully pleasing proposition in its own right. Indeed, even minus all of the additional trimmings, Untrue still offers its listeners a veritable bevy of sparkling, consumately-performed compositions. "I Am New," co-written with former PFR front man Joel Hanson, captures the catchy, seemingly effortless, Beatlesque pop vibe that Hanson and his bandmates purveyed so spectacularly during the early and mid-'90s. The irresistibly lilting "Help Me, Thank You" pulls together music hall, jazz and country & western (the latter thanks to a collection of nicely-placed banjo flourishes) into an appealing package that does justice to all three genres. "The Golden Boy & The Prodigal," with its gentle, yet insistent, folk-pop character, conjures images of a sturdy vintage train faithfully navigating its course on a warm autumn day at dusk. And the beautifully austere acoustic ballad, "Jesus Use Me, I'm Yours," should be required listening for those seeking a better understanding of simple, heartfelt worship.
As much as anything else, the Untrue record is an engrossing juxtaposition of opposites. The infectiously breezy, laid-back pop of the stellar opening song, "More Like Falling in Love," stands almost at odds with the depth and insight of its survey of the human/divine relationship ("It's gotta be more like falling in love/ Than something to believe in/ More like losing my heart/ Than giving my allegiance"). It is likewise easy to miss the gravity of the title track's somber themes of hope and despair ("From the war torn city streets/ To the trash the slum dogs eat/ It seems so hard to believe/ And meaningless to pray") amidst its vivacious, semi-clipped, rhythms and driving modern rock textures. And while the music and words to "How I Ended Up Here" don't contrast nearly as prominently with one another as those of "Love" and "Untrue," its humorous tale of Gray's hiding from a talkative friend behind the lobster tank at the local seafood restaurant is, in reality, a far more serious – and, ultimately, convicting – essay on self-isolation and fear.
His daunting lyrical and instrumental
talent notwithstanding, Gray's strongest selling point is arguably the
way in which he manages to open his heart and
lay it bare without ever coming across as self-absorbed or cloying. Likwise,
while the recording industry has no shortage of artists who are willing to
speak frankly about their struggles, Gray is careful to place his focus,
not on his own shortcomings, but rather on the love and grace that ultimately
heal and restore him. Perhaps most impressively, though, the talented Minnesotan,
like Rich Mullins, Steve Camp and Andrew Peterson before him, seems to be
pursuing the divine solution as if his next breath depended on it – a
facet of his music which only serves to make it all the more gripping and
substantial. On "For the First Time Again," Gray laments, "I’m
tired of my own voice/ Weary of adding to the noise." His ostensible
sincerity and one or two weaker cuts notwithstanding, it seems a sure bet
that those who lisen to his extraordinary second project will give the self-deprecating
singer/songwriter a far more favorable evaluation.
Bert Gangl was formally introduced to the wonderful world of Christian music by his baby brother as the two were winding their way through Western Tennessee in the family automobile. Ever intent on proving that not all Christian artists were knock-offs of their mainstream counterparts, the younger Gangl duly inserted his newly-purchased copy of White Heart's Freedom into the waiting car tape player and the rest, as they say, is history. In the twenty years that have transpired since that time, Bert has amassed a sizeable CCM album collection of his own and has gone on to write reviews for a range of music-related sites including ChristRock , The Phantom Tollbooth, inReview and The All-Music Guide. He currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife and daughter.