The Christian community likes to blow the cover of its cultural secret agents.
Christian media has been trying to wheedle a firm confession of faith out of Creed for a while. The Gospel Music Association gave P.O.D. more than one nomination in their recent Dove Awards, which lead singer Sonny Sandovol called "all politics." Understandably, category-busting bands like these tend to feel uncomfortably cornered and don't want to be pigeon-holed into a religious subculture.
Maybe that's why a new crop of bands are being a bit more vague about their faith. Take the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a three-piece nu-psychedelic rock band that's getting major attention right now. Their thick, buzzing music features enigmatic spiritual undercurrents, but the band isn't exactly letting on what it's about. "They really don't talk about it," Dan Russell, their U.S. manager, said.
If faith in God in any way gives the band something to sing about, why do its members stay silent about it? "There are contemporary artists out there whose faith is relevant to them," Russell suggests. "However, they are not falling in line behind the pop version of American Christianity just because it's not relevant to them." Bands who fall into this category tend to "let the art reflect what it reflects," he said.
When artists take this approach, they don't exactly want to get stuck with Christian labeling. Mark Joseph, author of "The Rock and Roll Rebellion," offers insight into the mind of the believing mainstream artist: "These guys are really trying to fly under the radar screen in terms of getting their music heard without people being afraid to pick it up," he said. "Like Bible smugglers [these musicians] are undercover in the sense that they're trying to get their music heard without being labeled as religious fanatics. If you have a Bible smuggler who's doing great work, you don't out the guy. You want to shut-up and let him do his work."
But Turner had better get used to it: BRMC is receiving far-reaching critical acclaim right now, and plenty is being written about their refreshingly narcotic sound (it's being heralded as a fresh rendition of the Velvet Underground or the Jesus and Mary Chain). Less ink, however, is being devoted to the band's poignant lyrics. The words are sometimes difficult to pick out, blanketed by a thick wall of sound. They're also ambiguous, but as a writer for New Musical Express noted, they contain "name drops of Jesus all over."
"White Palms" is one such Jesus-filled track. It says:
Jesus, when are you coming back
Jesus never coming back
Jesus won't take me back
Jesus never coming home
Jesus seems to steal my soul
He'll never let me go
Jesus gonna make me pay
Never should've run away
I wanna go home
In those few lines BRMC reveals a belief in a life beyond the present and a destination they haven't yet reached. The song lyrics show a violent wrestling match between expecting Jesus to return and disbelieving that He ever will; between running and being held captive by God. On one hand Jesus is "never coming back," and on the other "He'll never let me go."
BRMC's album ends with the track "Salvation." The song's placement as the finale is a significant statement to leave imprinted on listeners' ears. It tackles feelings of abandonment by God: So Jesus left you lonely/ Feel's like nothin's really holy/ No one, no one hears your calling/ Falling, everything is falling. The lyrics offer a very candid slice of spiritual searching. They also bring Satan on the scene, showing the role he plays in keeping a person from God. The band sings, The serpent dances on your breaking back/ drags you down, leaves you there again. Threaded throughout "Salvation" is the refrain Do you feel alive/ Can you feel alive?
When asked about the origin of "Salvation," Hayes told Hip Online it was inspired by "a question." Definitely not a small question.
Despite this evidence of Christian knowledge in their lyrics, BRMC gives cloudy answers about their songwriting. The band tries to "take it a bit more abstract . feel it a bit more," Turner says. "The only way to effect people is to make them feel something that they can't get anymore."
Jago adds, "I like songs that are mysterious--songs that make you think, and I hope people will gain that from our music."
Subtlety and stealth are the tools of Bible smugglers.