I never thought the day would come. But like a wonderful surreal dream that you find is real when you awake, one of the greatest acts in Christian pop/rock has returned from the grave. Dust off your old discs from 'Verio Records,' folks, cause the Minnesota trio PFR is back! After over four years of being known as "PFR, an awesome group who called it quits at the peak of their career," original members Joel Hanson, Patrick Andrew, and Mark Nash have reunited to be as if PFR 'never broke up.'
PFR, short for Pray for Rain, shocked the Christian music scene in 1996, before the release of their final record Them, that they were ending their short, but successful career. With a few Dove Awards under their belt and a Grammy nomination, PFR had been gaining popularity quickly with each record they released. But that didn't stop them from calling it quits when they felt it was the time. In 1997, PFR reunited for 3 brand new songs for a fan-picked Greatest Hits project appropriately titled The Late, Great PFR. The band was put to rest, and Patrick pursued his band Eager while Mark randomly helped out other artists and Joel stayed behind the scenes writing music. Eager, unfortunately, didn't last very long. Joel later released an independent solo record. After producing some records, Mark landed a job with Squint Entertainment, home of his wife's (Leigh Nash) popular group Sixpence None the Richer.
To the shock and glee of the remaining diehard PFR fans, myself included, the trio reunited once again for a song for the 2000 Roaring Lambs project on Squint. "Kingdom Come" also became a hit on radio and a fall Roaring Lambs tour was planned with PFR as the headliners. Devastatingly enough, the tour was cancelled due to not enough interest and PFR receded into the dark again. However, it was only a couple months before it was announced that the return of PFR was underway and a brand new studio album was already in the works. With that, Disappear and the trio's long awaited return goes public this summer.
When I first heard Disappear, I was expecting Them 2: Four Years Later. What I got was something almost completely different. More raw and naturally more mature, Disappear is a new version of the same old PFR fans had come to know. A lot less polish and shine can be heard on this effort than their previous projects. This doesn't make either necessarily better than the other, but just rather different. Songs like "Fight" and "Pour Me Out" from Them had more clarity and complexity to the sound. With Disappear, less time is spent trying to toy with and perfect the sound, leaving the end result to have more of an edgier pop/rock feel. "Amsterdam" is a catchy opener, marking the band's return, and is surprisingly the only song sung by Patrick, which is actually an oddity in itself. But Patrick's vocal style on "Amsterdam" don't appear to be an improvement or radiate an overwhelming sense of growth like some might expect. Instead, his vocals seem to almost feel apathetic and too melancholy for the occasion. However, we're quickly reminded what about the group we've missed so much all these years with the brilliant "Gone," a poppy tune with catchy guitar hooks and melodies. Joel's voice shines as well as it ever has and PFR fans will find this record as favorable as a visit from a longtime best friend who hadn't been seen in years.
Pending radio hits flood the album with the anthem-like "All Ready" followed by the ballad "Missing Love," which is also the first single off the record to hit radio. "Closer" shows more of an edge, but sounds as if it would have benefited a little more by the cruncy aggressiveness of old favorites "Pour Me Out" and "Name." "Even a Whisper" is reminiscent of classic PFR as "Falling" is another catchy tune that nears the same feel. "Me" is an odd fit for the band as the soft feel, beat, and overall sound of its intro may remind some listeners of the Smashing Pumpkin's song "1979." Luckily the chorus of "Me" rockets out of the Pumpkins label and helps to break up the possible association.
This is a new and different beginning for the no-longer Late but forever Great PFR. Disappear is a worthy return and a stepping stone for the band to continue to grow together, as we all hope they do, in the coming years.- Review date: 6/11/01, written by John DiBiase
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