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CD Reviews: Brian Vander Ark
Brian Vander Ark: Resurrection
May 2004
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Brian Vander Ark's "Resurrection"

The ever-changing music scene has seen several singers/songwriters emerge in the last few years from bands that enjoyed varying degrees of commercial success during the 1990s but have since disbanded or gone on hiatus. Joining contemporaries like Glen Phillips of Toad The Wet Sprocket and Dan Wilson of Semisonic is Brian Vander Ark, known best for his roles as lead vocalist, principal songwriter, and rhythm guitarist for The Verve Pipe. Vander Ark's songwriting skills, strong and consistent voice, and proficiency as a guitarist make an acoustic-based solo album a logical step in his musical career; Vander Ark's solo debut Resurrection was released March 9, 2004 on the Brash Music label. Though it is Vander Ark's first solo release, he has a wealth of experience as a solo artist and began performing in public as a teenager in Michigan. Resurrection is an interesting title for the album; though it seems very fitting upon first glance, it is also somewhat misleading because while Vander Ark did slip out of the public eye for the most part, he never really did go away, quit writing songs, or stop playing shows.

When not acting (Road Kill, Mergers and Acquisitions, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, and Rock Star) or playing shows (both solo and with The Verve Pipe) across the country, Vander Ark was writing and perfecting the eleven tracks that appear on Resurrection. While the album is noticeably mellower than much of The Verve Pipe's music, it allows Vander Ark to showcase his musical talents and pay homage to his pop influences while never losing sight of the rock and roll element. Those familiar with The Verve Pipe's music might get the feeling that Resurrection offers a hint to what Vander Ark's songs sound like without the full rock band treatment. Though the lyrics are tinged with themes like loss, leaving, and regret and the music often matches the tone of the lyrics, there are also many occasions on which the album rocks and the lyrics speak of hopefulness, most notably the title track.

Resurrection's standout quality lies not in any individual song, but in the album as a whole--- Vander Ark's ability to use his words, voice, and guitar to build a unique and distinct story with each song is stunning. He uses a variety of instrumentation to bring his storytelling to life--- drums, percussion, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, horns, strings, and harmonica are all used to enhance Vander Ark's stories and set the proper mood for his lyrics. It is apparent from the first notes of Resurrection's opening track 1229 Sheffield that songwriting is definitely the album's main focus. Rather than thinking of Resurrection as an album full of individual songs thrown randomly together, perhaps one can think of it as a collection of eleven different stories that each have their own identities, yet seem to fit well within the scope of the other ten songs.

Those who are already familiar with Vander Ark and The Verve Pipe should enjoy Resurrection; those who are not familiar with Vander Ark's previous work should give the album several listens to absorb the quality and intricacy of the songwriting and try to figure out why he isn't much more well-known and popular. Listeners who are only casually aware of Vander Ark via The Verve Pipe's 1997 hit single The Freshmen should be pleasantly surprised to hear that his songwriting goes well above and beyond what they've heard on the radio or seen on MTV (back when MTV still played music videos). Resurrection is an album that should be spread by word of mouth and by playing the CD for acquaintances or letting them borrow a copy; it is not necessarily the type of album likely to be mass marketed throughout the country, yet it is much better musically and lyrically than most of the albums that do receive the bulk of the major record labels' attention and resources. Vander Ark has a very strong and supportive fan base that does an exceptional job of promoting him and his music and there is a great deal of information about his current and previous work available at