I am a follower
of Jesus Christ.
My devotion is not perfect but, in the Christian parlance, it is relatively mature. And I cannot tolerate most Contemporary Christian music.
It is homogenous and pedestrian by almost any creative standard. By that I don’t mean by “The World’s” standards; I mean as understood by most music lovers with even slightly piquant taste.
As website Patrolmag.com put it:
“Artist after band after songwriter (presumes) that we listen to music out of a need to hear our theological ideas reiterated endlessly, as opposed to out of affection for creatively plotted melodic intervals.”
Into that space walks Derek Webb. Mr. Webb is the disaffected former member of Christian crossover band Caedmon’s Call who has recently returned to playing with them. In September, Webb released the solo album Stockholm Syndrome. I can’t go so far as Patrolmag to call it a “subversive masterpiece,” but it is a step above the traditional vanilla offerings of Christian radio.
The “explicit” version of Webb’s album…scandalously available by digital download only…is 14 tracks of reasonably engaging indie pop that is probably as subversive as Coldplay. It is good songwriting. But Derek Webb is not Thom Yorke and it is uncomfortable to observe him seemingly parlay his tension with dithering religious labels into a reputation as Christian music’s Bad Boy. I can recommend Stockholm Syndrome strictly on its own merits, distinct from the silly posturing and religious hand-wringing that accompanies it.
Sometimes the best way to enjoy Christian music is to buy from artists who write great songs and simply happen to be Christian. Released the same day as Stockholm Syndrome was Curse Your Branches by recovering alcoholic David Bazan.
This album by the former member of Pedro the Lion didn’t end up on my Must Buy list, but the synthesized song “Bless This Mess” is one of my favorite tunes of the year.
Listen to it and read about the origin of lyrics like, “God bless the history that doesn’t repeat” at Stereogum.