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Music Review: Thomas Torrey – This Slight Momentary Affliction

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Few genres are as limited as praise and worship. Praise and worship is a sub-genre of contemporary Christian music and let me tell you right now, will generally not be of any interest to anyone who does not share the faith.

Praise and worship has not only the lyrical restrictions (after all, it is being sung directly to Jesus) but it also needs to be something a church congregation can sing. Considering most church congregations have a wide variety of members with varying musical abilities, generally, simpler songs with  easy, catchy choruses are more desirable than not.

Since the goals of praise and worship music are completely different from regular music (even regular Christian music) it hardly seems fair to judge the genre on the same criteria as other genres. Yet that does change the fact that, even as a Christian, I don't really find a lot to like about praise and worship. Why would I want to listen to a band ripping off U2 when I can listen to Sufjan Stevens?

Along comes Thomas Torrey who comes and proves that just because songs need to be something a congregation will have an easy time singing along with that they don't need to be simple with epic U2 choruses.

Torrey gets things started with an all voices raised in harmony foot-stomper, "The God of Jacob is Our King." It reminds me of something that the supergroup Cush would have done on their Spirituals EP. It has a gospel swagger while feeling really earthy at the same time. It kicks things off to a much-needed great start.

While that same shuffle-and-clap effect disappears Torrey still throws musical surprises at the listener. "Father Hear My Half-Hearted Moans" has a great blues riff and funky bass work which, combined with the mumbled verses, comes off as being the closest thing to Primus-inspired that the praise and worship genre has ever seen. The chorus pulls a natural break from that, although the guitars continue to rip.

Other tracks are more atmospheric, threatening to tread too heavily into the aforementioned U2 territory. However, such as with "At Your Feet," they retain the laid back atmosphere rather than selling out to the huge chorus. Sure, there is a chorus, but it avoids Bono mimicry.

What really help the album are the little flourishes. The nice piano on "Don't Let Me Wander On" is just a simple little touch. The song could have seemed complete without it. But with the piano it is easy to realize how naked the track would have been without it. A lot of the tracks have little, spotlight-avoiding touches which just really separate the album from others in the genre.

Not all is good in Torrey land. His voice has a tendency to sound generic and bland. It's not apparent on every track (like the excellent aforementioned "Father Hear My Half-Hearted Moans"), but it us an unfortunate reoccurring problem. His voice sounds ready-made for a praise and worship leader. Thankfully his overall skill in composing interesting music keeps it from being a huge distraction.

This Slight Momentary Affliction will not make a non-Christian interested in the praise and worship sub-genre. However, for those who want something with more meat than is normally presented in the genre, Thomas Torrey's first CD should be checked out.

The album is on iTunes or go to www.thomastorrey.com for other purchasing options.

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