I think I hit the peak of my love for alternative Christian radio in spring of 2004. Not coincidentally, this is also when I picked up the album Crashings from Falling Up. And I loved it. Never mind the obvious parallels with Linkin Park’s electronic-infused rock, there was still something unique about this group of guys from the Northwest.
Like many bands of the era, I think there were roughly fourteen guys on stage at any given time. I’m exaggerating, but there were at least six, including a dedicated synthesizer player. For a pop-punk kid like myself, this was unfamiliar territory. Still, the music married hard-hitting rock with infectious hooks, interesting sonic elements, and vaguely faith-based lyrics, so I was sold. The production was stellar (though I unconsciously expected that of all music at the time), and it was interesting, yet accessible. When I say the songs are “accessible,” I don’t mean that they are upbeat and happy; on the contrary, they have the weighty, somewhat dark undertone I have grown to truly love in music over the years, acknowledging the broken state of the world and its need for redemption. At the same time, there is nothing too heavy, and the structures are somewhat straight-forward.
I don’t have a ton of particular memories of this album in my life like I do some others. I bought the CD for my then-girlfriend for her birthday in 2004. She was my first serious girlfriend who then left for several weeks in the summer to spend time at a church-based internship, which was crushing for my 18-year-old heart. I do distinctly remember going to the Sunbury fireworks on the 4th of July, missing her, and sitting in the horrible traffic on the way out as I listened to Crashings in my ’96 Jetta. I probably even keyed in on the one love song, which is a worship song depending who you ask.
I’m taking a few jabs here, but I honestly do consider Crashings a great album. The sound is consistent yet diverse throughout the twelve tracks which speak largely of grace and redemption. While there are some lyrical passages that are cryptic, the general message comes into focus if the listener knows the worldview of the band. Guitar riffs and drum parts remain interesting, while electronic and keyboard elements surface just long enough to remind you that Falling Up is not a traditional rock band. The few missteps on the album are when rap vocals suddenly burst into the otherwise melodic landscape. To me, it comes across as trying too hard to cater to a wide audience, possibly for that radio appeal I mentioned early. I skip those tracks altogether, especially “Jackson Five.” On the flip side, the few places where muted, distorted screams arise in the background are awesome, even if the intent was the same. Aside from a few places, it’s a great album full of good songs.
Over the summer, my infatuation with Falling Up waned as I discovered new music (namely UnderOath), but my college band played “Broken Heart” at our first show the following spring. Such was the impact this album had on my musical outlook. I think I loved that it was hard-rock enough to satisfy my need for energy, but mellow enough that the average person couldn’t complain. For a while, Falling Up was the band I could use to find common ground with almost anyone. Once their contract with BEC Recordings expired, they branched out into more of an experimental sound, and it’s hard to use that as common ground.
In the end, I give the band credit for blazing new trails in the Christian music scene, even as they took a somewhat popular phenomenon and made it their own. You can find the hard-hitting, digitized sound of Crashings on Spotify and Amazon.