Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
Spotlight No longer Discontented
It’s interesting that the huge success of their self-titled album and the hit singles “Kiss Me” and “There She Goes” should also have contributed to the pain of the last few years. If ever there was a band who have paid their dues it’s Sixpence. It feels as though every record company they signed to have gone bust. Most recently the original set up of Squint Entertainment under Steve Taylor sank after they invested thousands and thousands of dollars breaking Sixpence into the mainstream. This follow up album should really have come two years ago maintaining the momentum of the success of “Kiss Me” establishing Sixpence as one of THE bands on the planet. Sadly record company wranglings and more disappointment have dogged the band. But finally ‘Divine Discontent’ has found its way onto the record shop shelves. I suspect that this isn’t actually the album they recorded as a follow up since I received a couple of pre-release tracks a year ago, neither of which are included here. However, one thing is for sure, this is a stupendously beautiful album and I’m glad that it finally escaped from captivity. Everything that makes Sixpence such a great band is in place here - poetic lyrics, bittersweet melancholy vibes, Leigh Nash’s distinctive vocals and let’s not beat about the bush here! Brilliant songs! With so many astounding moments, I confess that I just love the closing “Million Parachutes” with its lilting melodies and seemingly Coldplayesque atmospheres. At the other end of the album, the opening single “Breathe Your Name” starts with some strumming that is vaguely reminiscent of “Kiss Me” designed to give casual fans something they recognise but swiftly evolves into an uplifting groove and hooky chorus. As with “There She Goes” on the previous album, the band demonstrate a knack for choosing a cover version ripe for re-interpretation. This time it’s Crowded House’s magnificent “Don’t Dream It’s Over” that is reworked into something gorgeous. Another favourite is “Dizzy” with its timeless melody and beautiful strings and piano that evoke yet more beautiful yearning melancholy. The band’s sound has obviously grown since the last album and the stunning string arrangements and addition of more piano only enhance everything that’s great about the band. It’s been a while coming but it’s been worth the wait.
The Nashville-based sextet Sixpence None The Richer answer some questions.
Have all the delays in getting 'Divine Discontent' released been frustrating?
(Leigh Nash) It's been, at times, maddening and depressing. It's nice to be at the end of that now; something good happening makes the bad almost disappear.
What exactly is the meaning behind the title 'Divine Discontent'?
(Matt Slocum) A positive dis-ease, a restlessness leading to a doorway to something new and better. Without pain and other difficult situations, we tend not to grow and change for the good. A lot of songs we’ve recorded here have a fascination with the fact that God would strike you down, and then raise you back up. It’s our attempt to make sense of some of the suffering.
You have been criticised in the past by the Christian music industry for going in a mainstream direction. How do you feel about this now with the new album being released?
(Leigh) We have a lot to say. We just need to be given a chance. We hope people will slow down, look at what we are doing and give us that chance. Criticism of "Kiss Me" and "There She Goes" felt a little premature to me. They’re just singles, they’re harmless. We have a lot more to say. We just hope the critics will chill out a bit and let us do what we need to do.
What inspires you to write songs that express your faith?
(Matt) The Psalms are so important, because they give us a poetic language for describing and interacting with God. He is the theme. All we can do is write variations and try to weave notes in between. We are trying to describe the realities for which adequate words and music simply do not exist - but we are stronger for having made the effort.
Doing a cover version of "Don’t Dream It's Over" by Crowded House must have been a bit of a challenge.
(Matt) My first introduction to the inimitable and brilliant songwriting of Neil Finn was hearing "Don’t Dream It's Over" on the radio in my early teens, and I became an instant Crowded House fan. In covering such a pop classic there is always the challenge of answering the question, "How can we possibly make this any better?" The challenge is especially difficult when the production lines of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake have crafted the arrangement and sonics on such a high level. Producers Rob Cavallo and Alan Sides came to the table and helped the band to deliver a version that I hope will make Neil proud. I think Leigh Nash's passionate vocal is what makes Sixpence's version ultimately unique, the phrasing and range of Neil's melody fit her voice perfectly.
Is it true that Sixpence None The Richer are supporting DATA? (Debt, Aids And Trade In Africa)
(Matt) With success comes responsibility. We must use our resources to serve in our local and global communities. Through our involvement with DATA , Sixpence has the opportunity to join our small voice with others in raising awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa.
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