Fine China – When the World Sings

Fine China
When the World Sings

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been able to expound much audio pleasure from any sort of religiously based band. Something about Christian rock (the well from which most of these religiously based acts spring from) always seemed about as edgy and consequential as a video-only Disney sequel. Something about it always made U2 sound like Slipknot. Made Bryan Adams sound like U2. So excuse my skepticism when Fine China’s When the World Sings arrives in my mail box with a Tooth and Nail Records insignia. As I cheated and peeked at the lyrics before hearing the music, I groaned – two verses in, Fine China had already hit a predictable stride: “where is the gentleness and hope of the Lord?” Jesus Christ.
Well, now that I’d gotten the band’s message nailed down, I figured if I could easily classify the music, in two narrow strokes I could pigeonhole the band and rip them in this very review. Two for two! Yay! Fine China play a rather upbeat synth-pop style that has seen quite a resurgence lately. Clinical, pulsing drums pave the way for jangling, reverberated guitars, and sparkling keyboards. When the band finally does change tempos, they slow to an insipid, ballad-like pace that just opens the doors for more gratuitous comparisons to the 80’s. Think My Little Pony and gel bracelets.
You may now find yourself asking, “Well, Andrew, faithful reviewer, does this band have ANY redeeming qualities?” Why yes, inquisitive reader, they do. The band’s treasure cove comes by way of lead singer Rob Withem. You see, Withem has this whole “I’m an androgynous English singer from the 80’s” thing NAILED. In fact, his vocal performances, in tone and inflection, are a far more convincing recreation of plastic pop music than many of Fine China’s similarly minded peers. His voice flawlessly caresses the cliched music behind him, smoothly spitting jagged melodies that peak and dip just as fast as that fake beat rides the snare. If he could just work out some of his lyrical, ahem, problems, then songs like “We Rock Harder than You Ever Knew,” “Labor Saving Device,” and “Comforting, Gondoliering” would be nearly flawless renditions of a style whose merits are debatable.
I don’t mean to be unnecessarily critical of this band; they aren’t outwardly bad, nor is their songwriting below par. But the recent oversaturation of synth-pop and the decidedly religious leanings of this band blend in a way that makes my stomach turn. Truth is, you could probably do much worse. Point is, you could do much, much better.