Monday, October 11, 2010

"Christian" Music?

I recently went to a Belle & Sebastian concert at the Hollywood Palladium. I wrote about it on my other blog. Going to the concert happened as a bit of a lark. I found out about it the night before and someone at work just happened to have tickets available. I'm only familiar with their early work in "Tigermilk," "The Boy With the Arab Strap," and "If You're Feeling Sinister." So, at the concert, I heard a lot more of their new stuff, which is decidedly more upbeat. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I had a great time. There was one song though that caught me off guard. There was something in the lyrics that seemed... well, religious. I'd never gotten that feel in their music before, in fact, their music had always seemed rather anti-religious. I pretty much forgot about it until I heard this interview on NPR.

Belle & Sebastian's newest album is overtly religious and the group's main singer, Murdoch, openly discusses his Christian faith in the lyrics. From the NPR interview
"The Ghost of Rockschool" features these words: "I've seen God in the sun, I've seen God in the street / God before bed and the promise of sleep." It's always tricky, that line between pop music and so-called Christian rock. I'm not a fan of Christian rock, and I hope that ["The Ghost of Rockschool"] doesn't sound too much like a mawkish Christian rock song.

So... I feel sort of let down? As they say in the interview, the group's lyrics used to be far more cynical of religion. Murdoch sort of writes that off, blaming his young age at the time. But I LIKE their old stuff better. I always interpreted those songs as being completely non or even anti-religious. But maybe I was interpreting them completely wrong?? This is from "If You're Feeling Sinister."
But if you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
He'll try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless unbeliever

But if you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
Chances are you'll probably feel better
If you stayed and played with yourself
The funny thing is that LP (other half of this blog) has never cared for Belle & Sebastian and pointed me in the direction of the NPR interview as a sort of vindication. Of course, LP has his own "Surprise Christian Band of the Millennium." Have you heard ICP's totally awful Miracles

It's so bizarre and sadly hilarious. ICP announced a couple years ago that they were secretly Evangelical Christians, but I've never bought it. LP has always liked ICP, he's from Michigan, after all, and he has his own interpretation on the matter that I'll make him post someday. 

I have to say that ICP has a few songs that I really do like. They aren't all that bad. Seriously, some of their songs are kind of catchy... you actually have to listen to it, but not take it too seriously. But "Miracles" doesn't really sound like anything from their most recent album to the point that they must be tongue in cheek. Jon Ronson interviewed them in The Guardian recently... and they don't come off looking so great. In fact, they come off looking completely stupid. So, are they actually serious Christians? Or just dumb? Or secretly brilliant hoaxers?

An ode to ignorance that will be interpreted many different ways. Some will see it as ironic, some will take it at face value, some will see it as a glorious Christian message. What do you think?

And what do you do when you find out that a band or musician or artist you like is overtly religious? Does it change how you feel about them? Lyrics are never the most important thing to me in music, so if I otherwise like a song, it doesn't bother me much. And random references here or there don't really bother me. I would hope that if a religious person found out that an artist they admired was an atheist, that it wouldn't sway their opinion much.


  1. I heard the same B&S interview on NPR and was similarly crushed. At the same time, it really is just music. I am deeply critical of Christians who avoid secular music for religious reasons. I've already made peace with Sufjan Stevens and U2, so what's one more?

  2. I like ICP. I think that while they are clearly informed by a christian upbringing they are the first to say that it is unwise to read too much into their songs.

    I had the same thing happen with flyleaf. I quickly accepted the christian overtones as a minor hiccup in great music, much like chorale music, but what almost made me quit listeneing was when I realized my favorite song was written about the made up story from columbine about the girl who (as the story goes) claimed she believed in god and was shot (the story was latwr discredited by witness accounts). I put away the cd for quite a while afyer that.


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