‘I tried to write a song / keep it three minutes long/ get in, get out, nobody gets hurt…’ is how Josh Wilson opens “3 Minute Song”. Considering that Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup clocks in at 44 minutes, and 11 tracks, singling one radio-format song seems unnecessary – like Scissor Sisters calling a track “gay song”, Ella Fitzgerald doing “Jazz Song” or Kate Nash singing “annoying song”. It’s kinda what they do. And Josh Wilson does the musical equivalent of what UNICEF reports say about most children born to middle class families in Africa: not too short or too long, with above-average intelligence and a non-threatening frame of reference (and mostly pretty white).
Josh spends the album musing about relationships, God’s goodness and his own imperfection in a world seemingly without war, poverty, injustice or any but the most mundane violence. It’s probably not going to become a crossover hit in Mogadishu. And why should it? Somalia’s gospel scene is hardly falling over itself to make its products relevant to the youth-groups of California.
Josh (and when you hear the music, you’ll realise he had to be a Josh) has a very pleasant voice – lacking the low-register Country gravitas of a Jeremy Camp, but then also mercifully lacking his annoying forced earnestness. Even “Pull Me Through”, which opens thus: ‘Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong /everything that should go right has gone wrong too,’ is blessed with the rest of the album’s feel-good flavour and natural, easy expression of overtly Christian content. Christian stations are going to love it, but I would not be shocked to hear it on Radio 1 or 2.
This is a super-catchy, breezy collection of summer-songs, mostly uplifting acoustic guitar, piano and an unintrusive rhythm section. Beatlesy flourishes; choruses you can instantly sing along to and lyrics that are clever, but not too clever wash amicably over you like sprinklers over a well-tended suburban lawn on a lazy summer’s day. If this does not become a big Christian market hit, either the world has suddenly become a far more serious place than it was, or someone in Marketing has blundered.
But just as Josh has convinced you that everything is as good as it feels on a bright bright sunshiny day with the wind in your hair, and that troubles, dark thoughts and worries about the world were all illusions, “Something’s Got To Change” closes the album with an out-of-left-field reality-check: ‘I can’t believe I’m hearing people say that all is well / I think it’s time we all admit we have no good within ourselves/ We’re not okay, we’re not alright, we need to pray for help. / Forgive us for our pride, oh God oh God please save us from ourselves.’
Mister Wilson (by this point he’s earned some respect) is undeniably talented and surprisingly deep. Definitely what we privileged Christians will want to hear this summer, and perhaps also what we need.
Essential download: “3 Minute Song” or “Something’s Got To Change”