Since their debut in 2004, Letters To The President, Hawk Nelson has been one of the most consistent bands in Christian music, and, to some, one of the best pop rock bands in CCM. There have always been those who have been unimpressed with the group's punk rock flair, but their last album, Live Life Loud, was easily their most musically rich album to date. To follow up the project, Hawk Nelson is up next with Crazy Love, which is their fifth studio album in fewer than seven years.
The tempo of the album is the softest of any Hawk Nelson to date, and Crazy Love doesn't feature a single real rock song like they have in the past ("Like A Racecar," "Is Forever Enough," "You Have What I Need," and "Alive," to name a few). But the album does kick off with "Tally Ho," a rapid but brief rock assault. It's the first time Hawk Nelson has started an album with a song under two minutes, but the short intro indicates that there is plenty of fun and joy for twelve more songs ahead. "Your Love Is A Mystery" is a softer pop song, but there are some good hooks which help the song stick out. The upbeat title track offers a potent electronic influence (a gimmick not often associated with Hawk Nelson efforts), and it's a good pop rock tune, even if it's not a particularly exceptional one. "My Next Breath" isn't a flashy song, but it highlights the band's successful attempt at incorporating a worship sound into their music. The album really begins to sag a bit right in the middle of the release as the uninspiring "We're Alright" serves as a pop rock song without much energy or passion. "Skeleton" comes across as Hawk Nelson attempting to try too hard to offer a catchy tune with a punk influence, but succeeds only in showcasing lead-singer Jason Dunn ineffectively shouting out the lyrics of the song. "We Can Change The World" is a pretty good emotional, light pop song, but compared to "One Little Miracle" (from the band's third album Hawk Nelson Is My Friend) it falls a little flat.
The project picks up speed with "One Shot," which is an up-tempo anthem that is simply solid all around. "Fraud" is a more classic Hawk Nelson catchy, pop rock song with punk leanings that works especially well when the vocals sing over each other towards the end of the track. Although "Joanna" is hardly groundbreaking, the smooth pop/rock tune is surprisingly infectious. The most ridiculous song on the album is "LAX" which is played for laughs, but ends up being a loud, annoying clip of pointless yelling. "Thanks For All The Beautiful Memories" has a similar vibe to that of "It's a Long And Lonely Road" (the Letters To The President finale) with its fast-paced beat.
While the album takes few, if any, risks on the musical side of things, Hawk Nelson does take a different direction when it comes to the lyrics. Instead of spending time singing about troubled relationships or modern teenage crises, the band's songwriting reflects more of an effort to sing about what God has been doing in their own lives. The band offers their awe of God's love on "Your Love Is A Mystery," and "My Next Breath" admires His mercy and our need for Him, "You open up your arms/And give me a new start/I need you/I need you more than my next breath"). "One Shot" is similar to "Head On Collision" and "Let's Dance" in its message of moving past complacency and making a difference. As stated previously, "We Can Change The World" isn't as moving musically as "One Little Miracle," but it's a little more specific with its theme. However, there are a few songs on Crazy Love that don't offer much depth, and specifically the lyrics on "We're Alright" are a little trite ("We can make it tonight/everything is alright").
I have always thought that Hawk Nelson has had difficulty putting together an album that sounded truly whole, and I'm not sure they succeeded on Crazy Love. Sure the frequent honesty offered on the album in their lyrics is a refreshing change from a few deep songs sprinkled in with a bunch of more shallow tunes, but the musical progress that Hawk Nelson accomplished in Live Life Loud doesn't really show up here. The charm and innovation used on their last project is replaced by a safe sound which is largely devoid of diversity. However, loyal fans will still enjoy Hawk Nelson's pop rock sound, and, despite its flaws, have no problem welcoming Crazy Love.
- PReview date: 1/25/11; Reviewed 2/6/11, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com