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Strange Confessions: My Most Moderated Mantra

Strange Confessions: Some of the music I have recently discovered is more execrable, lyrically wise, than the music I liked in high school and college, which was disparaged at the time as evil and disgusting. Worse yet, I was introduced to some of the current stuff by my bestest buddy, who is, supposedly, a Christian.

It seems that every fifteen to twenty years or so my tastes change in the type of music I mostly listen to. There have been some interludes of the classical (Beethoven), the grungy (Soundgarden), the jazzy (Spyro Gyra), the swing (Frank Sinatra), and the blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan). I’ve even found a band that got me liking my much detested Southern Rock genre, Drive-By Truckers. But your musical tastes are defined by the majority of what your listening ear leads to. Early in my life I found myself digging the comical musical stylings found by listening to Dr. Demento and the soft rock and disco popular at the time. Choosing the music I like started with heavy metal. Rainbow, Judas Priest and my favorite, Iron Maiden defined the era in high school. In College I was in a mostly transitional phase, but the major bands were R.E.M., U2, The Police and the Eurythmics. When I became a Christian, I found bands similar to what I liked at the time. Things really changed when a friend introduced me to Apoptygma Berzerk. I listened to a lot of Techno, Electronica, Synthpop, and EBM which culminated in the much appreciated Goa-Trance. Bands like Kraftwerk, Orbital, Covenant, Daft Punk, Infected Mushroom, Juno Reactor, Erasure, KMFDM, and much, much more, opened up a perpetual dancing heart within me. I liked to move, and this stuff was the majority of my listening pleasure for the last twenty years or so.

Recently I had found a band that really connected with me: Steam Powered Giraffe. But they seemed like a band that I would temporarily enjoy for a while, but they could never stand the test of time. To me it kind of seemed They Might Be Giants all over again. I really liked the hook and humor of TMBG, but I listen to them now and it seems dated… immature. I sensed a change coming in me… musically. It’s just starting to get a bit tiresome listening to the Techno/Electronic and strangely enough I’m not nearly as into Goa-Trance as I was. I use to be able to listen to that stuff for hours.

Then I heard Alt-J. I knew this was the stuff that could change the current era I was getting tired of. The melodies, harmonies, elegant and atmospheric drew me in instantly. I downloaded the album and listened to it constantly everyday. Some of the lyrics I couldn’t understand, because they distort or mumble or quietly chant their words, so I looked them up. They are a very poetic in their lyrics, and take some lyrics from some literary sources, in which some of the questionable lyrics come from. I find myself singing some of these lyrics that I don’t particularly want to find myself singing. I say that some of the books I’ve read have some sections that are disturbing, but as a whole they have a message, one that I can understand and ponder, maybe not agree with, but it is there nonetheless. If I read books that just had disturbing images one after the other, I probably wouldn’t read them. If there was a powerful enough image that was dark and disturbing I might write a song about the feelings that came forth from the reading. There is even a song he wrote about a time he was beaten badly by some soccer hooligans, and it sounds like a drug song. I see Alt-J as an extremely poetic band that needs second and third looks at what they are communicating, while their music is just plain righteous dude!

Which brings me to another band that I heard on the Alt-J station I just created on Pandora: I Monster. The first song I heard was apparently the most popular, Daydream In Blue. It had a mellow, sci-fi, retro, haunting early 60s, vibe with a bit of Electronica thrown in. I was instantly hooked. Then there was Hey Mrs. and Heaven and the crazily repetitive The Blue Wrath. I loved it all. It was undefinable, a bit scary, sci-fi, so retro, and did I mention undefinable? Check out this video, it’s the only original one I feel comfortable enough to post here.

A slight bit dark and a little disturbing, yes? I had to listen to some of the whole songs and came across other videos more disturbing than that though. Their lyrics sometimes seem innocent enough, but then you find out what some of the distorted stuff says, and wonder, “How did I get here?” Again, these guys a very poetic and perhaps a bit obsessed with male/female relationships. The one I particularly looked at seemed to be a play on romantic pursuits hiding true purposes and making fun of how we hide behind the masks of culture in our obsessions. Very good, very interesting, and again, dark and disturbing.

So I wonder if this stuff is healthy for me. When I started my Electronica phase I really liked a band called Rammstein. I constantly listened to it and repeated the harsh, hard, German lyrics that trilled on the tongue. At the time I worked with a Christian girl, and she asked me if I knew what they were singing about. I said no, and she told me that perhaps I should find out what I was singing. When I found out, I was shocked and horrified! It wasn’t just one or two songs, it wasn’t poetic, it wasn’t playful, it was really dark and obsessed with relationships (if you know what I mean). Even though this was a different language, I could no longer listen to it with a clean conscience.

This current music I like is different, isn’t it? I can listen to it myself, but should I recommend it? Would I make the weaker brother stumble? If I’m slightly disturbed by this music, I know there are some who would completely be offended by it all or fall into searching for other stuff that may excite senses that they have fought for a long time.

It seems that the world around us is getting darker. Some would say it always has been as dark as it is. In the immortal words of Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.” I know I am to be the light, does this kind of stuff not make me not as bright? What about drinking alcohol? Is everything that could be abused or construed as evil be stayed away from? Should I disdain sugar and fat? Wow, that one hit below the belt, eh? We got to be careful within our own attitude and relationship, and not worry so much about what others may think about what we’re doing.

This has been what I had struggled with all year last year. What should I look like? But, really it was: What should others look like? I know God deals with me and my struggles and will lead me and guide me into what I would need to rid myself of or start doing. I am thankful for this perspective change.

~Stranger

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Strange Confessions: Destroying My Music

Strange Confessions: I’ve sold or destroyed my Iron Maiden collection several times over the years since I’ve been a Christian because I believed it was an evil influence for me.

Since then I always argue for them, that they are the most misunderstood band ever. I mean take a look at these album covers:

I mean, how did I get away with having this stuff in our house when I was younger? I don’t think my Mom or Dad came in my room while I was listening to my music, to check things out, to see if everything was okay. I, as a parent now, would never not know what my child was listening to. ┬áThe things I disapprove my children listening to is Mark Schultz. So why do I argue for Iron Maiden? Because many things I became interested in, in history, mythology, literature, science fiction and British pop-culture, came directly from their songs. They even played songs directly from the Bible. And the songs that did have a bad message or theme, which were few, I didn’t like anyway. I was in High School during the high popularity of the worst themed music ever: Glam Rock. Now take this next album cover for instance:

My older brother owned this piece of garbage.

If I had a son and he was bringing this into the house, then I’d be worried. These Glam Rockers and their ilk, sang about partying, women and their own stupid music. I stayed away from that stuff. Sure there were a couple that made it to my fave list then, some early RATT, a bit of Great White, a sprinkling of Autograph. But, most of it just made me sick. Give me Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, or Judas Priest, or Anthrax, or Grim Reaper, or early Metallica, or my favorite, and still is, Iron Maiden. So why did I sell or destroy my collections? I suppose I fell into some early legalism. I looked at the covers and thought that it wasn’t the kind of stuff a Christian should own. So I sold all my albums or gave them away. Years later, after my wife and I had kids, we joined the Columbia House Club thing, and I got all the Iron Maiden I loved back then, and then some. I still remember sitting at work, looking at the album covers once again, and thinking I don’t want my kids to be swayed by this stuff, or to think that it is okay for a Christian father to own this. I took the CDs in my hand and smashed them on the corner of my desk, breaking them all to pieces, so that I wouldn’t have any reason to keep the cases around. I still regret doing that.

Did you know that one of the members of Iron Maiden is a true Christian? Yep, Nicko McBrain, the self confessed ugly one of the group is a Christian. That’s all right isn’t it? To still like a secular heavy metal band because their drummer is a walking, talking Christian.

You know, it makes me laugh when I hear people say something like, “Did you know [famous person] is a Christian?” and with awe, the answer comes through all breathy, “Really? How wonderful.” And then they are lauded in the Christian community as someone to be upheld, someone to look to.

Yes, that is great and all, but we look up to them almost in an Idolic way. (Is that even a word, “Idolic”). Then they fall from their lofty perch and we say that of course they were never a Christian in the first place. How could that happen to them? If they really were a Christian. I do look up to Nicko though, and even more now that I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the residual legalism that I have been clinging to. But not as an Idol, not as someone to emulate. That role, that right is held solely by my savior Jesus Christ. Now if people are following Him, I will want to follow their example, but it is still Christ who I am upholding, right?

I’ve told my Satanist friend that it is easy to be a Satanist, it’s all about you. When you’re a Christian it’s all about Christ, and it is one of the hardest things to do in this world: to deny your self. These men and women who are in the spotlight are held to such high standards, especially when they claim some form of Christianity or other, they are bound to fail.

I see all these people I idolized when I was younger, now trying to live a life they are still trying to understand, because of all they have been through, but go forward, toward Christ, and I am amazed that they are still going. I admire them for their ability to still make great music and not necessarily have to be a or in a “Christian” band.

I was at the used bookstore the other day and saw this book. It looked very interesting and I almost bought it. I thought, what should I care about what these people believe, when I need to be focusing on what I believe and my relationship with Him. But does our understanding grow when we know the thoughts from those who believe and don’t believe? Why should we care? Are we going to say, guess what so-and-so said about God? Are we? I might. In fact I have. But, why?

I’ll leave you with a band that had one of the worst reputations from that era, my era, who now claims to be Christian. He won’t sing what was his most popular song back then, because of its horrid theme. But, I sure do love this song, and it’s biblical! Who cares? I do…

~Stranger

Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Christian in a Heavy Metal band? (long article).

A Brief Musical Interlude or Teach an Old Man Some New Tricks

So, I am a 44-year-old Christian man, happily married for 19 years, with three daughters. So you’d think my musical tastes would range in the area of concrete: set for life. Or, if somewhat transitional, I’d like some of the new stuff on your local K-LOVE station, but keep me with the old and reliable. Yes?

No.

That would not be the case. In fact I am looking for some new stuff that can make a home in my music collection. See what I like, what my history is, and make some recommendations if you like.

My first presentation is a band I came across several years ago. It is a psy-trance band from Israel named Infected Mushroom. This song is an amazing mix of latin guitar, techno, trance, and heavy metal. Enjoy, “Becoming Insane”.

My most recent discovery came from a young friend on, that one site. It is a band called Steam Powered Giraffe. They use makeup to look like robots and are a part of the new cultural scene called “Steampunk” These guys incorporate harmonies and stories set to classic twenties rhythms and modern techno dance. They also incorporate pantomime into their live shows. It’s something you can listen to with the whole family. My current favorite song is “Captain Albert Alexander” because my daughters love this song and make up additional lyrics to it. Here is three offerings from them. First up is the aforementioned song that is a good intro to them. So if you hate it, you can lump it. But, listen to the song, close your eyes if it gets to scary like.

The second is a bit more mellow, but still the performance just makes you fall in love with them. Here is “Honeybee”.

You also have to check out the very first video I ever saw of them. “Fire Fire”

The next band is one of the gateway bands that introduced me to futurepop, ebm, and psy-trance. My friend, JR, who owned a black metal record store, showed me this band. He knew I wasn’t much into what he liked. So he figured I might like them. Here are three songs from one of my favorites, Apoptygma Berzerk.

Something older: “Unicorn”

Their most remixed: “Kathy’s Song”

And some of their slightly newer stuff: “Asleep or Awake?”

Now we get to some of the Christian stuff I like. I’ve always liked the Newsboys and when Michael Tait took over as lead singer, they lost the fun, the lyrics, the dance that made me like them so much. But then, their former lead singer put out a solo album. He is being played on your KLOVE station, but like always with that station, they play it over and over and it’s not even the best one. I mean c’mon! Here is “All In Your Head”. It is one awesome song that makes you want to get up, get off your seat, move your feet and do what He said.

And he does a great techno “Psalm 23”.

So. There is a sampling of what I am currently into. I grew up with trends liking, in order, the Beatles, Rainbow, Dio, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Police, U2, Talking Heads, M.A.R.R.S., Robert Plant, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, and then it just got all ecclectical: The Thrills, Ace of Base, America, Electric Light Orchestra, Ween, Bread, The Cranberries, Covenant, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Drive-By Truckers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Gnarls Barkley, Jars of Clay, Juno Reactor, Ladytron, MGMT, Earthsuit, Orbital, Seabound.

There. I like to move, don’t like much of the harsh metal/goth or rap singers. I don’t like too dark and doom like. As long as it’s got a good beat and has memorable lyrics, with a good hook to it, I’m in. The band Tool, is the total opposite of what I like. The newer the better. Thanks.

~Stranger

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