God rocks 

Open to Closure and AFA moralize through music

Open to Closure

Self-righteousness often breeds provocative music. Just look at Rage Against the Machine. While Open to Closure’s latest release is not an angst-ridden shot at the system, their lyrics and music are equally as passionate as that of Rage. Much of this passion stems from religious zeal. Guitarists and vocalists David Boone and Ryan Jensen make a point of thanking the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Savior, etc. in the liner notes, and Boone writes that “this album is for the faithful.” Having never experienced much God-rock that really made me feel anything other than annoyed, my defenses were up when I pressed the play button and sat down for a listen to OTC’s latest release, Perspective. Not being a Christian, I was prepared to be alienated. Fortunately for those like myself, Perspective doesn’t hit you over the head with its faith-based message. There were no “When will all those non-believers realize that they need to worship the only true God?” lines to speak of. In fact, Boone’s lyrics, even if rooted in Christianity, tend to focus on the universal beliefs that nearly all of the world’s religions have in common. This more pluralistic approach caught me off guard, and was a refreshing surprise.

Perspective combines no-frills live recordings (from Missoula’s own Break Espresso) with more polished studio tracks. Both the live stuff and the studio songs share a certain sense of intimacy. The acoustic guitar rings out as if being played by someone sitting in your living room, serenading whom-ever will listen, be it roommates, a loved one, or a tired old black lab. Boone’s words and music are mostly mellifluous and deeply earthy. At times, the serenity is temporarily broken by more percussion-heavy songs with vocals in that sort of nicely-strained tone that seems to work for the Counting Crows’ Adam Durwitz.

Open to Closure’s charm comes mostly from the band’s straightforward approach. Boone writes the kind of songs that are so honest that most other songwriters would keep them to themselves, afraid of appearing too vulnerable. If there’s a downside to this naked truth, it’s predictability. When you deal with universal themes, as OTC tends to do, you often realize that what you have to say is not necessarily something new and different, but something that has been said since the dawn of time. This is the context Open to Closure should be appreciated within. The album notes include a passage from Isaiah 58:12: “And thou shall be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.” So when your priority is dealing with simple truths from which contemporary society has strayed, as it clearly is with Open to Closure, then chic and/or cutting-edge songs are about as likely as an Ike and Tina Turner reunion tour. But there is a deeply human resonance with many of Open to Closure’s songs. No effects. No distortion. No cynicism. No subtly crafted “cool” image. Sure, the music isn’t as original or “out there” as, say, Beck, but when mainstream radio gives you that “it’s all been done before” feeling, Open to Closure can aid in the realization that, even if it’s all been done, it’s rarely done with such sincerity.

More to Life self-released

Bozeman’s AFA might be Montana’s youngest rock music moralists. Like the anchorman in Network, these kids are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. The music ranges from super-aggressive, as influenced by Tool, to more passive-aggressive, as influenced by Bush. The guitar/bass/drums trio’s release, More to Life, leaves a lot to be desired in terms of production. Throughout much of the album, the lyrics all but drown out the instruments. But then again, you can’t expect three high-schoolers from Montana to fly in some hotshot L.A. producer. Rather More to Life embodies the go-it-alone spirit that brought garage music out of the garage and into the spotlight in the early ’90s.

The album is drenched in the fervor of admittedly deeply religious high school students. The more puritanical rock songs on the album could make the cut for a Christian rock station, and, with some studio guidance, could even follow Creed’s footsteps onto Top 40 radio. Yet AFA sparks attention through their anger over current conditions and their idealistic belief that all can be changed. This is nowhere more evident than in lyrics such as “We live in a society where everything’s free and everything’s ‘me’/They try to sedate the monster they’ve cre-ated/Rape our morality so no one can see what we could be/Why do we close our eyes to our country’s demise?/The filth, garbage and pollution have become our new constitution/Wake up today/We’ve slept in much too late/Wake up today/It’s time to change the world, come what may.” Could this all be summarized in an “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” bumper-sticker? Sure. Does that make it any less valid? Absolutely not.

George Orwell once said that he planned on saying the same things over and over in his writing until someone listened to him. The reason AFA joins the ranks of high school bands who are singing about the same kinds of things is that no one is listening to them. Until the parents of America realize the need to turn the TV off at dinnertime and listen to their children, the kids will continue to write angry music in their garages—which is actually a much healthier strategy than some of the alternatives. So maybe the recording isn’t perfect, and maybe there’s nothing being said on More to Life that hasn’t been said before. But Orwell would still dig it.

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