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I See Things Upside Down

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

I See Things Upside Down - Webb, Derek (CD 2005)
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 9, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00066VUSO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,427 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen E. Vander Woude on November 11, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Derek Webb, former co-leader of folk-pop outfit Caedmon's Call, returns with his sophomore solo record, "I See Things Upside Down", abandoning the bright country-folk of the impressive "She Must and Shall Go Free" for a denser mood-rock, complete with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco atmospherics.

The change can be jarring to one accustomed to Webb's earlier work. The closest touchstone in Webb's catalogue is probably his foray into a modern rock sound on Caedmon's Call's "Long Line of Leavers". But this new album is by no means a regression for Webb, but a bold step forward in distinguishing his art from that of his former band and the CCM sub-culture.

In the album opener, "I Want a Broken Heart", Webb laments his failures of faith over swirling keyboards and cello, punctuated by eerie piano stabs and synth pulses. The effect is mesmerizing. Variations on the theme are used to equally stunning effect on standout tracks "Medication" and "Lover Part 2".

The ramshackle-rock of "Ballad in Plain Red" finds Webb playing devil's advocate in a punchy, irreverent guitar-driven stomper with rattling percussion. The bridge here is expertly executed and enthralling. This song, one of Webb's best ever, could be the evil-twin to the Dylan-esque "Nothing (Without You)" from his first album.

Musically, Webb makes only a few missteps. The bouncy, by-the-numbers "T-shirts" may fit lyrically, but the sound is out of place in the middle of the album's edgier musical landscape. The same might also be said for the sweet "Better than Wine". However, that song stands on the strength of Webb's exquisite vocal, including a lovely falsetto in the chorus.
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Format: Audio CD
Derek Webb's new project is full of beautiful lyrics, melodies, and lots of breathing space. It has a mood and flow that makes you want to listen straight through without interruption. The songs simultaneously deconstruct the notion of a touch-and-go radio single, while at the same time leaving a lasting impression with haunting melodies and phrases. And his vocals are both vigorous and tattered, with a humanity I miss in much of todays slick music and in some of the Caedmon's Call albums.

With relevant themes of modern culture and faith, Derek writes with an honesty that would be compelling to people of all backgrounds and opinions. In other words, you could disagree with his ideas and still find something there to latch onto. I think my favorite track is, "What is Not Love". It is more or less the title track, and it frames the content like a birds eye view.

With "I See Things Upside Down" Webb is clearly showing a "coming of age" in his career. This project showcases his unique way of turning a phrase, coupled with a new freedom in expression and production. It tears down walls and categories, so if you're a listener that looks for something easy and safe to pop in the CD player, you may want to start by listening to some Johnny Cash, Wilco, and Joni Mitchell first. Then, you'll be ready for this kind of art. It is sure to stretch your ears and heart in all directions.
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Format: Audio CD
Based on some reviews of this album, Derek was correct to predict that not everyone would appreciate this album. I find myself in the other camp that truly appreciates what Derek has done on this CD and since he left Caedmon's Call. The music on this project is not in the typical contemporary Christian style, and in my opinion, that's a great thing. The lyrics are challenging and well-crafted, and the music is amazing. It's remarkable how many issues I've struggled with recently have been addressed on this CD.

Ultimately, I think you should give this album a fair listen and decide for yourself before letting someone's review (including mine) persuade you either way. God bless.
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Format: Audio CD
There was a time in which Christian art provided you food for thought rather than candy for your ears. Back when worship setlists weren't dictated by the year's WOW playlist, and Christian success wasn't evaluated by the bottom line of album sales and radio play. It feels like forever ago. Today it appears that capitalism, the wooden god of numbers, has a very tangible stranglehold on Christian art.

This is why, when artists like Derek Webb come along, industry execs must be baffled. Derek left a lucrative career as co-frontman of the highly successful band Caedmon's Call so he could start all over. He abandoned playing sold-out 2000 seat venues in favor of more intimate shows of 20 in people's living rooms. A solo folk record criticizing the infidelity of the American Church replaced a decade of accomplished work with Caedmon's.

Even now with Derek's latest venture, he pushes the envelope of loving corporate- and self-criticism even further. "I Repent" is a song of contrition for buying into the lie of upper-class Christian superiority, which we disguise "by trading sins for others that are easier to hide." "T-Shirts (What We Should Be Known For)" describes how, rather than Christians being known for our love (John 13:35), "they'll know us by the t-shirts that we wear, they'll know us by the way we point and stare at anyone whose sin looks worse than ours". He even takes a page out of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" to write "Ballad in Plain Red" from Satan's perspective about how he's sabotaging the 21st century Church.

What amazes me is how Derek manages to be scathingly honest, yet remain so caring in his treatment of the Bride that Christ loved to death. The social criticism is cutting, but too loving to come off as preachy.
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