Christian Rock

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Aug 272009
 

Our Shuffle Sunday pick a few weeks ago reminded me of a theme I’d been planning to work up for a while. See, for my senior thesis I researched the phenomenon of Christian rock, otherwise known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I examined the fan base, seeing who they are and why they buy what they buy. During the course of this I was exposed to quite a bit of Christian music, and learned that musically, it’s like any other genre: 90% of it is terrible, the other 10% not bad. Lyrically it spans the gamut from the in-your-face (Larry Norman, Newsboys) to “Jesus is my girlfriend” non-specificity (Amy Grant, Switchfoot).

Here’s some of the not bad, CCM artists covering other CCM artists (mostly). To dispel a few popularly-held beliefs: Creed is not CCM and neither is Evanescence. These are Christians who rock (horribly), but were never part of the CCM community. Know who was though? Sufjan Stevens. So don’t be so quick to roll your eyes. Go below to learn and if you want to check out that thesis, it’s here.


DC Talk – I Wish We’d All Been Ready (Larry Norman)
This was CCM’s first hit, a tune from 1969 by the “Godfather of Christian rock,” the man who the term “Jesus freak” was coined to refer to. The movement started when evangelicals brought a bunch of California hippies into the church. They abandoned free love and drugs, but didn’t want to abandon rock and roll. DC Talk are the biggest Christian hitmakers of the ‘90s – their song “Jesus Freak” is arguable the best CCM song ever – so it’s fitting they pay tribute to their forefather. Even if the lyrics are…well, you’ll see. [Buy]

Relient K – Between You and Me (DC Talk)
DC Talk’s 1995 album Jesus Freak heralded the second coming of Christian music. It sold two million copies to Christians and non-Christians alive, proving that whether one agreed with the message or not this was music to jump to. Relient K currently blur that same line, alternating Christian rock festivals with Warped tour appearances. [Buy]

Jars of Clay – God Will Lift Up Your Head (Trad.)
The more I listen to Jars of Clay, the more I begin to think they may be the best CCM group out there. Great musicians, greater songwriters, and phenomenal interpreters. For their album Redemption Songs they put new music to a dozen old hymns, making them both poppy and emotionally inspirational. [Buy]

Lost and Found – Scars and Stripes (Tim Graf)
The duo that invented speedwood – like speed metal, played on acoustic instruments – tackles a peer’s tune on a b-sides disc released only to fan club members. It’s more complicated lyrically than a lot of CCM tunes, which makes it more interesting. [Buy]

Third Day – Saved (Bob Dylan)
Many readers will know Dylan had a born-again phase, releasing three Christian albums. Needless to say, it’s an obvious source for in-the-know bands like Third Day to tackle. And did I mention Dylan’s coming out with a Christmas album in October? Maybe he hasn’t left the faith after all. [Buy]

Sanctified Glory Mountain Revival Family – Guilty By Association (Steve Taylor)
Ever since the controversy over his tongue-in-cheek hit “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good” – he blows it up because he’s an ice cream man worried about losing customers – Taylor has been a bit of an outlaw in the world of CCM. Here he’s just as sarcastic as ever, criticizing Christians who think listening to secular music will send you straight to hell. [Buy]

Geoff Moore & The Distance – Why Should the Devil (Have All the Good Music)? (Larry Norman)
This song title could be called the mantra of Christian rock. It’s the quote commonly used to justify a genre that some Christians still object too (check out this site – it’s pretty funny). Well, he clearly doesn’t – this song rocks. [Buy]

Audio Adrenaline – Gloria (U2)
U2 is another band of Christians who rock, but enough of their songs are Biblically informed that there’s a whole Christian rock tribute album to them. Fun fact: many Christian radio stations will only play CCM covers of U2 songs, but not the originals. [Buy]

The Swirling Eddies – Alcatraz (Al Denson)
We heard their DeGarmo and Key cover a couple weeks ago, and this track comes off the same lovingly mocking album that takes the silliest classic CCM tunes and makes them even sillier. Ironically, it also makes them better. [Buy]

Philmore – Living On a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Bon Jovi is in no way a Christian group, so it’s interesting to see a song you never thought of as religious repurposed. All of a sudden the title has a totally different meaning. [Buy]

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