Sep 282005
 
Authors: Jess Brooke

So said KISS, "God gave rock and roll to ya, put it in the soul of everyone." So why is it that Christian bands find fame and fortune only after they lose Jesus? Think MxPx, Switchfoot or Sixpence None the Richer.

Sure, "Creed" had a good run. The band's first CD, "My Own Prison," explored the dark side of Christian ideology: "Shackled by my sentence/Expecting no return/Here there is no penance/My skin begins to burn."

"Creed" followed the wildly successful "Prison" album with the more Jesus-friendly CDs, "Human Clay" and "Weathered," and secured its demise.

Fans who hadn't caught the sometimes-subtle biblical references in "Prison" abandoned the band. Lead singer Scott Stapp began threatening Fred Durst and his red hat from a safe distance and became so inebriated before a show that fans sued "Creed".

So the band booted out Stapp and Christianity and was born again as Alter Bridge. The first single, "Metalingus" enjoyed constant rotation on national rock stations.

"Creed" wasn't the first band to take a hint from REM and lose its religion. Punk rock band MxPx found its way into mainstream rock in the early '90s when they stopped writing lyrics about Jesus.

Didn't know "MxPx" was originally a Christian band from Seattle suburb, Bremerton, Wash.? Most casual fans don't. Religion fails to make an appearance in punk hits "Responsibility" and "Everything Sucks (When You're Gone)."

But don't think "MxPx" has completely abandoned its humble beginning. While I was in Seattle in 2003, a radio station announced a nationally popular local band was playing a downtown bar under the name of "Godhawk."

I was under 21 at the time and couldn't get through the door, but I strongly suspect the band was the punk rock boys from Bremerton.

If this was the case, fans have to wonder if the moniker "Godhawk" was used so the band could return to Christian rock without hurting the tattooed, blue-haired reputation of MxPx. Most likely, it allowed the popular band to play a small intimate bar without violating the fire code, but the precedent has been set.

The exception to this rule may be "Payable on Death" or POD, an arena metal band that incorporates grinding power chords and deep-throated screams.

However, this Christian band's lyrics are ambiguous. The song, "Alive," could easily be about a significant other, or a favorite cereal for that matter.

For the time being, POD has found a careful balance of writing lyrics that are universal enough to not alienate its non-Christian fans, yet pious enough to maintain its religious followers.

Most bands can't find this equilibrium. The first single from Switchfoot didn't come until the band began describing itself as a "San Diego surf band." Some of Switchfoot's Christian fans may be screaming, "sell out," but they won't hear a "Jars of Clay" song on an episode of "The O.C.," which of course, is the ultimate indicator of success.

Jess Brooke is a senior double majoring in technical journalism and criminology.

 

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