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Monday, May 12, 2008

“The indictment is as much on us Christians as on anyone else”

posted by on May 12 at 17:59 PM

Christian Today has a review of Christian band Delirious?’s new album, Kingdom of Comfort. I don’t know how I stumbled into this site, but it provides a very interesting look into the world of Christian record reviewing.

Firstly, if you want to be a Christian music reviewer, it’s important to assess the spiritual content before you review the musical part: “You cannot help but self-reflect on your priorities after hearing this album.” Note the unnecessary ‘self’ before ‘reflect,’ driving the reviewer even further into his or her own mind. This is deep. Jesus deep.

In fact, the next few sentences don’t mention the music at all, except to use the horrible music-review word ‘ethereal.’ And that the lead singers’ delivery is ‘humble’ and ‘straight-up.’ It continues by saying that this style of singing “makes each song feel as if it is a private confession that he is letting us in on – yet as we listen it becomes our confession too.”

It goes on. There’s another mention of the music here: “And never at any point is music or spiritual substance sacrificed in the name of agenda.” But then the reviewer doesn’t talk about what the music sounds like. Then the reviewer calls two songs “heavenly and beautiful,” without explaining in what way the songs are heavenly and/or beautiful. And then things close by saying: “The balance is perfect and the result is music that puts substance between the ears and stirs a tearful compassion in the heart.”

So, in conclusion, the album has songs that are ethereal, humble, straight-up, beautiful, heavenly, and substantive. I don’t know what kind of music it is, or what kind of songs are on the album—up-tempo? ballads? Eh. Who cares? It’s all about the Jesus.

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The Christian music industry gives us plenty of fodder for mockery. However, you've got to do better than this. "They don't tell us what the music sounds like!" is a pretty lame criticism. If you're reading "Christian Today", you already know what Delirious? sounds like. You want to know how this compares to their earlier efforts.

It's fine to make fun of evangelicals, but I wish you guys had a higher degree of literacy while you were doing it.

Posted by Kevin Erickson | May 12, 2008 6:39 PM

But is it "indie?" I only listen to "indie" music.

Posted by flamingbanjo | May 12, 2008 6:43 PM

You might, for example, have noted that "Christian Today" is a British website, and Delirious? is a UK-based band then notice the amount of attention paid to social justice issues, then compared this to American popular-level evangelicalism. Then you could have used this shitty review of a shitty record as a lens for understanding the tensions within christianity; i.e. how European, especially british christians are fed up with the materialistic lifestyle and right-wing politics of their US counterparts.

Posted by Kevin Erickson | May 12, 2008 6:47 PM

@1 good point, but most music reviewers, the Stranger writers being no exception, do not say much about what the music they're reviewing actually sounds like, except for when they string together a bunch of (usually obscure) bands to name-check/compare to the band that they're supposed to describe.
I suppose anyone would have a tough time putting music to words and it's always easier to genre-drop or name-drop your way into being understood by your readers.
Aside from what the music sounds like, tell me why I should care. Who the fuck is delirious? Do I even "need" to know?

Posted by E | May 12, 2008 11:56 PM

@1 You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Paul, you hit the nail completely on the head. My dad was a music critic for CCMM (Christian Contemporary Music Magazine.) My uncle-in-law was a big-wig christian music producer. (Most famous for working with Petra.)

THAT IS HOW CHRISTIAN RETAIL WORKS. Music or otherwise. I grew up surrounded by it my entire youth. Bands who don't even pretend to play along get dropped.

Other ways that Christian reviewers like to judge music:

*How many bible scriptures are quoted in the album. The more obscure the bible verse, the better.

*Whether the artist's songs would make good "whorship" songs. This is more of a vague category that nobody knows the criteria of.

*How hard is the band working to convert non-christians? A lot of christian bands like to talk about their music converts people, or "gets in the hands of the un-saved."

*Does the band pray onstage? Sadly, I've known bands who got rejected for not meeting this criteria enough.

Keep up the good work Paul! I got a pretty good chuckle reading this article.

Posted by godsactionfigure | May 13, 2008 12:42 PM

Christian Pop music basically only follows one formula:

epic mountain moving life changing ballads. It doesn't matter what type of ballad. Rock opera, piano ballad, elevator ballad, party ballad. It only has to inspire someone feeble enough to forget about the shit songwriting as well as the unwitting homo-erotic lyrics.

Don't take my word for it:

actual lyrics from the band in question:
"Sometimes you're further than the moon
Sometimes you're closer than my skin
And you surround me like a winter fog
You've come and burned me with a kiss

And my heart burns for you
And my heart burns"

Posted by Bryce Beamish | May 13, 2008 3:10 PM

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