Album Review – I See Things Upside Down

Many people wondered what Derek Webb was thinking when he abandoned his position as co-leader of Caedmon’s Call, a band that was routinely playing before crowds of 2000 people, to strike out on his own. After all, why would he abandon security and a regular paycheck to do his own thing? On this album he gives the answer: Webb sees things upside down. In “What is Not Love” he tells us that “what looks like failure is success and what looks like poverty is riches.” To do what he felt God wanted him to do he had to leave the security of Caedmon’s Call.

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Webb’s first album, “She Must And Shall Go Free,” was a necessarily harsh but loving call to the church to return to the purity of the gospel. He pulled no punches in describing the church’s current state and how God must feel about her. The album was well-received by some but disliked by others. Some stores even refused to sell it. Webb followed the album with a series of house shows where he played in intimate settings of 20 to 50 people, sitting in a living room, playing his songs and just teaching others what God had taught him. He released an album called “The House Show” that allowed anyone to experience one of these shows. And now, a year later, he has released his next studio album, “I See Things Upside Down.”

This album is clearly different from his previous ones. The sound is more polished and even includes plenty of synthesized sounds and organ backgrounds. It kicks of with “I Want A Broken Heart,” a haunting song with all sorts of background noise that describes his condition before God. He moves on to the country-inspired ballad “Better Than Wine” which sets The Song of Solomon to music. From there he moves to a bigger sounds in “The Strong, The Tempted & The Weak” and then to the slower “Reputation” and “I Repent” which we first heard on “The House Show.” Other notable songs are “We Come To You,” written by Aaron Tate – a stirring ballad that clocks in at just over 8 minutes, the bulk of which has no lyrics and “Lover Part 2” which is a haunting, beautiful song that picks up where “Lover” left off in the first album.

It is difficult to define the musical style of this album. I suppose “atmospheric rock” would be an appropriate title. It certainly deviates from the pop music of Caedmon’s Call and doesn’t have nearly as much of the folk feel as his previous album. The most obvious instrumental change in this album is the amount of keyboards Webb uses. “She Must And Shall Go Free” was almost entirely guitar-driven where on this album many of the songs were clearly written for the keyboards. According to his web site he will be supporting this album with a full-band tour and that is clearly a necessity with these new songs, many of which simply wouldn’t work with only a guitar.

To conclude, this is an excellent album, both musically and lyrically and I heartily recommend it. As we have come to expect, Webb presents an original and inspiring view of the church. He continues to challenge the church to be more like Christ intended her to be. If you are a fan of his music you will definitely want to add this to your collection. If you have not heard Webb before, this is an excellent opportunity to discover one of the best artists in Christian music. Pick this one up; you won’t regret it.