Music Review: Go Farther in Lightness
Having never heard of the band Gang of Youths, I wandered over to Wikipedia to do some reading up on them when I began listening to their newest release, Go Farther in Lightness, this year. An interviewer for MusicFeeds asks the lead singer, David Le’aupepe, if religion still plays a part in his life or if he just identifies with it culturally. Le’aupepe’s response is hilarious, honest and something most Christians probably have felt in their time:
“That’s how I grew up – my parents were a part of that movement [Messianic Judaism] for a very long time, and my sister still is a part of it. Personally, I don’t have any religious affiliations anymore – those are ties I cut some time ago. Within conversations about faith, however, I still align myself with Jesus. I’m just not a great poster-boy for it – I’m a fornicating drunkard who swears a lot and listens to a lot of black metal. [laughs]”
Gang of Youths’ sophomore album ups the ante when it comes to religious, philosophical, and existential questions. The lyrical content includes the very existence of God, His allowance of suffering, and how we are to relate to each other on a horizontal level depending on our answers to these more vertical questions.
This album has become the biggest musical surprise for me this year. Le’aupepe and crew have assembled a collection of songs that get at the heart of the Gospel, regardless of how attached or detached Le’aupepe may be to any organized religion. Their lyrics respond to the skeptical hearts of the world by softening them and coming across as emotionally honest. The album is perhaps the most joyful album I have heard in quite some time, but it’s not cheap joy, not merely happy. This is a hard-fought joy that battles through the darkness, depression, sin, and grief and still finds lightness on the other side waiting to embrace us.
While all of the songs are fabulous—not a bad one on the album—the block of songs flanked by the two largely instrumental tracks, “L’imaginaire” and “Le symbolique” strike at the heart the hardest. “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” calls us to grasp for what seems “a random disclosure of grace” and not let our spirits wane, while the title track laments the feeling of being “alien” on the very streets we live.
It is “Persevere” that has become my anthem in the ruins of this world and the diseases and social ills that plague us. Personally, it has been the hope-filled soundtrack to the continual decay of my father’s mind to early onset Alzheimer’s. The song starts with the funeral of a baby girl—belonging to the lead singer’s close friends—and David’s questioning of how God could let such innocence die. The second verse finds him and the girl’s father talking:
“So I’m shotgun in the car and we’re just shooting the sh*t
And predictably, the talking turns to God
So I throw him forty lines how I don’t think he exists
And he just smiles and takes a dignified pause
Says, ‘It’s okay to feel unbelievably lost’
But God is full of grace and his faithfulness is vast
There is safety in the moments when the sh*t has hit the fan
Not some vindictive mother**ker, nor is he sh*tty at his job
What words to hear
And I’m a mess by now
'Cause nothing tuned me in to my failure as fast
As grieving for a friend with more belief than I possessed
‘It’s not some disembodied heaven,’ he assured me
Then he laughs and says through tears
‘You got to persevere.’”
Every time I hear this song, I find the tears fall naturally. An honest, heartfelt description of the pain of the world bearing down on our souls as we continue to be wooed by this God that is so beyond our comprehensions. This song—and, really, the whole argument of the album—call us to hold fast to the hope that can linger through and eventually beyond the suffering, grief, and difficulties of this life. We are not perfect and our brokenness can be read in our social structures and our relationships.
And, yet, the Bible, and Gang of Youths, remind us that this is not the end of the story. The hope that we sense will be fulfilled in the future. That is a truly joyful note from a truly wonderful album.