When my wife switches on WLAB, there aren't many songs that capture my attention and quite a few that elicit a violent response to the utter lack of artistry for the sake of "THE MESSAGE" (Yes Virginia, there is something worse than The Backstreet Boys). One of the very few exceptions is the music of PFR. Five years ago, this talented trio broke up to get off the road and spend time with their families. But the road has a way of luring one back and these gents have recorded their fifth studio album. I must admit, this one took me the longest get. I was initially disappointed, thinking that they had lost whatever magic they previously were able to create. But it seems that PFR wanted to make the album that they would have made today had they stayed together these many years. It's taken a while to grown on me but is has grown and while I don't think it's their best, it is most definitely a solid album. So what do they sound like? Imagine Jellyfish scrubbed clean of innuendo by a wall of gritty alternative-rock guitars set among Beatlesque vocal harmonies and the ability to write a great power-pop song. PFR gets on the radio with their soft ballads, but they limit these to two or three per album. The rest of the songs are aggressive guitar feasts for musicians. "Amsterdam" and "Gone" are most like PFR's last album, which was the best guitar rock album of 1996, Christian or otherwise. Expect gutsy rhythms, tasteful distortion, upbeat tempos that swing, and some gloss-perfect production. As a bass-hound, the first thing that struck me were the many bass sounds present, each one painfully full and rich, making me burn to know how such a sound was captured. The final song, "You" begins in a mesmerizing wash of flange before being interrupted by a fuzzy guitar before settling down to vibes and a long vamp featuring a crying, emotive violin. Lyrically there are the Christian references required for radio airplay... on the ballads. The upbeat, rockier songs are much more creative and thought-provoking, settling more on the non-cliched spiritual themes one might find on an early U2 album. My only beef is that after waiting half a decade, PFR only gives us thirty-five minutes of music. Very good, but very short.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, June 2001.