Some of My Favorite Christian Rock n’ Roll
Last week, Daniel Radosh — author of Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture — compiled a list of 10 great Christian rock songs. It’s actually a pretty good list; Radosh dives a little deeper, mentioning several lesser known acts that have been perennial outsiders to CCM alongside some more obvious examples. Hence the fact that Larry Norman, Bob Dylan, and Sixpence None The Richer share space with mewithoutYou and Vigilantes of Love.
But of course, a list like this always demands a response — and not necessarily in a negative or corrective way, but just because us music bloggers are just plain suckers for lists like this. So here’s a list of albums that, if there were ever to be some kind of definitive list for the finest albums to ever come out of Christendom, would get my very vocal support.
Pedro The Lion — “Secret of the Easy Yoke”
Arguably, it was Pedro the Lion’s It’s Hard to Find a Friend (1998) that catapulted David Bazan’s band into the limelight, and it’s easy to see why. The songwriting is simple and humble, owing as much to slowcore acts such as Bedhead and Idaho as much as more traditional “indie rock” acts. And lyrically, the album is just stupendous. Bazan’s lyrics are deceptively simple, and yet songs like “Big Trucks” and “Of Minor Prophets and Their Prostitute Wives” pack a punch.
This is nowhere more obvious than “Secret of the Easy Yoke,” which could be considered the Pedro the Lion’s signature song. Bazan sings openly and honestly of walking into church consumed with doubt and struggle, and all the while, surrounded by smiling, happy believers whose confidence only serves to highlight his condition (“It’s true they did not move me/My heart was hard and tired/Their perfect fire annoyed me/I could not find you anywhere”).
As someone who often experienced that, of being surrounding by happy, smiling believers who all seemed to have their act together while my faith was as substantial as a puff of smoke, “Secret of the Easy Yoke” was my unofficial theme song for many years. And I don’t think it’d be too much of stretch to say that I often prayed the song’s lyrics. I simply couldn’t get more honest and open with God than by singing, along with Bazan’s plaintive voice, “Could someone please tell me the story/Of sinners ransomed from the fall/I still have never seen You, and somedays/I don’t love You at all.”
Scaterd-Few — Sin Disease
Put simply, there has never been an album like Sin Disease in Christendom, and I doubt there ever will be. On paper, this mixture of punk, goth, funk, reggae, speed metal, and lounge(!) just shouldn’t work. But it does so brilliantly, thanks to the ferocious intensity and gutwrenching emotion the band pours into the short album. And nowhere is that more obvious than the chameleon-like vocals of Allan Aguirre (who went by the moniker of Ramald Domkus for the recording). His voice ducks and dives like the bastard child of David Bowie, Andrew Eldtritch, and Diamanda Galás, and his lyrics tackle everything from hypocrisy and legalism in the Church to gang violence, racism, and drug addiction.
To this day, I still get a chill and a sudden rebellious stirring every time I hear Aguirre wail “Please stop William/The wrong assassination” (“Light’s Out”), “Take heed to my reproof, don’t reject me ’cause I’m young/We’re here for Yahweh’s glory and to magnify His Son” (“DITC”), and “I’d rather die than blame it on my God” (“Scapegoat”).