Plus One

Atlantic Records, 2002


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Plus One, the Contemporary Christian music world's answer to Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, apparently titled their sophomore effort Obvious as a challenge to believers - namely, to make their beliefs obvious in their daily lives. After all, aren't the band's beliefs obvious on this disc?

Uh, no... and thank God for that. I loathe listening to CCM which takes the message and beats me over the head with it, warning me I'm going to hell if I'm not born again. (To quote Dennis Miller - and, by the way, props to him for a great two years on "Monday Night Football" - pardon me for getting it right the first time.) PlusOne doesn't do this on Obvious, instead delivering their message more coyly, wrapped up in a harder edge to the music and lyrics which often allow the listener toderive their own manings.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet Obvious shows the frailties that almost every boy-band faces at some point in their careers - namely, fighting to stay sounding fresh in a market which is already supersaturated. Backstreet Boys have fought with this. *NSYNC has fought with this. New Kids fought with this, and lost. Now, it's Plus One's turn - and while the album is pleasing in general, I almost wish they had gone a little more in the direction of clarity.

I admit I'm at a disadvantage, since I'm working off an advance release copy of this disc, and I have no liner notes or lyric sheets. But there are times I do wish I had a clearer picture of what the group - Gabe Combs, Nathan Walters, Nate Cole, Jeremy Mhire and Jason Perry - were singing about, since their vocals are often partially obscured by the music. It's not a weakness that terribly dilutes the enjoyment and the power of songs like "Camouflage," "Kick Me" and "Calling Down An Angel," but it does seem like their message isn't always getting out there like the band might have hoped it would.

And while Obvious is an enjoyable album right off the bat, I still am not totally convinced that Plus One is ready to go after the present 800-pound gorillas of the teeny-bop market. This has nothing to do with their CCM style of music - as mentioned before, there's enough leeway on many of these songs where the listener could even take a non-religious view of the music and find it enlightening - but more that they're still working out just what kind of a band they want to be musically. These are, after all, young men who are coming into their own on many facets of the musical spectrum, with band members sharing in writing (and, on two tracks, some fo mof production) chores. The chances are good that Plus One does have what it takes to be considered a big name in the boy-band field; they're still working towards that goal, however.

Obvious is not the definitive statement from Plus One; rather, it's a portrait of the group on their own journey. It's a step up from their previous effort, and has enough charisma to be embraced even by those who do not like Contemporary Christian music. With a little more polish and more maturity as songwriters and producers (something I don't mean as an insult), they could be larger than their own genre.

Rating: B

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.