Flesh is part three of Osenga's 4-part, musical-genre-hopscotch EP series (Heart, Soul, Flesh, Bone), and this is the particular one for which a whole bunch of fans have been waiting, the one that rocks. The anticipation lies in Osenga's particular brand of rock. It's loud but not cacophonous, it's produced with wonderful attention to quality and detail, and it's a lot of fun while staying just cerebral enough to turn the listener to the lyric sheet for a few moments of reflection. A perfect example is the end of "Who Said Life was Fair?", sung right after a tasty little guitar solo and over a round of percussion punishment that surely made Paul Eckberg's drum kit quiver: "Power, absolutely, is the absolute solution / to the pesky little conscience / oh yeah!" That's the package you get with Andrew Osenga: a cymbal crash to shake the dust and bit of philosophy to ponder, punctuated by a hearty "Oh yeah!"
Six songs compose the EP, and each is solid musically, lyrically, and thematically. A look at the track list makes the collection sound like a moribund dose of miserable reality, but the music and lyrics tell a more redemptive tale. These are songs born of a tested world view in an imperfect reality, and while they don't offer trite solutions, they are aware of a holy hand at work.
"Black Cloud" hints at the Exodus and a "spark divine" shining through flawed and worn-out skin. "I Was a Cynic" tells of the magnetic allure of love and servanthood calling a scoffer to recovery. And "Whatever it Takes" is a profound study on disappointment: "I've got two hearts that keep me beating / One's been torn apart, the other's healing." This is the album's crown jewel, and it contains what could serve as the album's thesis statement: "Expectation drowns the good in 'should-have-beens' / 'til bitterness remains / or we choose to change."
In the middle, a sort of three-song cycle weighs in on the ways our own attitudes shape our existence. "We are Not Children Anymore" and "Fight Like a Man" are a one-two punch of humility and maturity for those of us mature adults who occasionally slip into juvenile self-absorption. The advice in the former is pointed and appropriate: "Grow up!" Next, "Who Said Life was Fair?" pleads for a reminder of the reasons for "grass is always greener" syndrome.
Throughout, Osenga's guitars and pedals shine, whether he's playing the vocal line in the opener or cranking a little distortion on "Cynic." His vocal, which is sometimes a little ragged and strained, fits this style of music best, communicating the humanity in these songs, which is really what makes them so good.
One more EP remains, but it's hard to imagine this won't be the finest of the set.- Review date: 5/11/15, written by Mark D. Geil of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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