David Wang (front) says Critical Mass's album Body Language aims to influence young people in a direction different from that intended by popular culture, particularly with respect to love, sex and communion.
David Wang (front) says Critical Mass’s album Body Language aims to influence young people in a direction different from that intended by popular culture, particularly with respect to love, sex and communion.

A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study has found that young people are more likely to become sexually active after listening to sexually explicit song lyrics. In fact, the researchers say exposure to lyrics describing sex is one of the strongest precursors to sexual activity.

Providing an antidote to this state of affairs, a Canadian Catholic rock band has come out with a concept album based on the Theology of the Body, the late Pope John Paul II’s integrated vision of the human person as body, soul and spirit, as well as his answer to societal trends that have portrayed the body as an object of pleasure or a machine for manipulation.

Body Language, the latest album by the band Critical Mass, aims to send a message that will influence youth in a direction different from that intended by popular culture, says the band’s lead singer David Wang.

“It’s an album about love, sex and communion, but from a Catholic viewpoint,” he says. “Here’s a different way to present the (Theology of the Body) message. It’s revolutionary. Musicians are starting to look at that as a place to draw inspiration from. If we’re going to do a concept album, what a great place to start – counteract secular culture with the Catholic message; do an entire album based on the Theology of the Body, an entire Catholic-Christian album based on sex, love and communion.”

Wang says lyric writing for the album was an intense process, requiring about a year of time and a great deal of research. “At the end of the day, there are 12 songs on the album. The songs basically deal with secular society’s viewpoint on sex.”

Chastity, marriage and homosexuality are just some of the themes explored. The album includes remakes of a couple of Critical Mass’s most popular songs from the past – Body and Blood, to reflect the tie-in with the Catholic sacrament of Communion, and Walk You Home, a “love song” from God to all human beings.

The album contains a range of music styles, says Wang. Although the newer lineup of Critical Mass leans toward a heavier sound, the song Devotion is a ballad, while Tantum Ergo is sung in Latin. “So it kind of covers both extremes,” he says.

Apart from dealing with a unique theme and subject matter, Body Language has the distinction of being put together with elements recorded by band members in various parts of North America and then assembled under the supervision of Kitchener, Ont. music producer Andrew Horrocks.

“What was really interesting was that our band members are all over the place,” says Wang. “We have someone in Seattle and someone in Iroquois Falls in northern Ontario. What we actually did was record the album in multiple locations and use the internet to ship the pieces of the songs to Andrew Horrocks in Kitchener.”

Horrocks had never done anything like it before and Wang says it was a technical challenge to make it all work, but the end result made it hard to tell the album had indeed been put together in different locations.

Body Language is currently available only as a download at the band’s website: www.catholicrock.com. There are plans to issue a CD version a few months down the line, as well as record videos to accompany some of the songs. But Wang says the days of expensive video shoots are probably over and the trend is toward less flashy productions, such as those found on the band’s video page at www.youtube.com/davefromcm.

Critical Mass plans to tour in support of the album later in the fall, but first wants to work on tightening its live performance by playing smaller venues throughout the summer months. It will then likely concentrate on promoting the album for the next two years before considering the production of a follow-up.

“We’re finding there’s a lot of interest, especially in the fact that it’s an album about the Theology of the Body,” says Wang. He adds that coincidentally, a large-scale conference on that very subject is coming up in Toronto and Critical Mass is scheduled to perform at it.

“I think our timing with this album is very interesting,” observes Wang. “As the Theology of the Body becomes more and more discussed within mainstream society, hopefully our music will provide the soundtrack for that.”

Critical Mass was formed in 1997 with a radically different lineup and has released five albums. Its release Completely captured the best rock album award at the Canadian Gospel Music Association’s Covenant Awards in 2000. It performed before hundreds of thousands of people during World Youth Day events in Toronto in 2002 and then shuffled its lineup before again winning Covenant Award honours with the album Grasping for Hope in the Darkness in 2005.

Its current regular lineup includes Wang on lead vocals, Luke Kupczyk on guitars and backup vocals, Lawrence Lam on keyboards, Scott McKendrick on bass and background vocals, Tracey Doyle on percussion, Paul Kieffer on drums and Dave Flitton on guitar, keyboard and background vocals.

“We’ve got new band members. They’re all younger and they bring a heavier edge to the music,” says Wang. “The message, as usual, is very faithful to the Catholic church, but the music has gradually gotten a little bit heavier …

“When we get the music out into people’s hands, we find we make a difference in people’s lives,” he adds. “We get e-mails back all the time about how listening to the music has really made a difference to them. That’s what keeps us going … I guess you could call us pioneers for bringing the truth of the Catholic church to the youth.”