Strive: Fire

Listening to Strive’s Fire can be a little disorienting – immersing yourself in the band’s piano-heavy pop creates an effect similar to what it might feel like to hit your head and wake up in 1988, on Johnny Hates Jazz’s tour bus, where the singer from When in Rome is doing the nasty with Elton John. Nothing on the album is as disturbing as that mental image, of course, but the songs strongly evoke memories of the late ‘80s heyday of melodramatic, thickly polished pop – and singer Derrick Thompson really does sound like the singer from When in Rome. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, and really, if Fire had been released in ’88, Strive would be selling out arenas with Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant – but in 2009, there isn’t a non-CCM station on the planet that’s going to slip any of these tracks into heavy rotation, particularly when they’re as unintentionally funny as “On Our Way,” which is supposed to be some sort of tribute to the downtrodden people of Africa but ends up just ripping off the melody from Ben Folds’ “Brick.” Fire may trigger a mixture of nostalgia and ironic pleasure in listeners old enough to remember the ‘80s, but music this simplemindedly earnest is liable to be little more than an amusing curiosity for everyone else – and when you’re aiming for sweeping grandiosity with every track, as Strive so clearly is, that’s a pretty big problem. (GoDigital 2008)

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