Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Where's the Fun in Christian Music?

Back in the early days of Christian Music, one of the dominant artists was Steve Taylor. His music was known for its biting satire, social commentary, and the ubiquitous 80s synth pads. But it was also a lot of fun. The kind of music that made you smile and laugh, with hits including "I Want to be a Clone" and "Meltdown at Madam Tussaud's" (check out Blair from The Facts of Life doing the video intro).

In the early-mid 90s other groups came along that kept up that mantle of fun. Groups like Jacobs Trouble, Dakota Motor Company, and the Lost Dogs all made good music, and put a smile on the face of their listeners at the same time. Toe-tapping rhythms, social commentary, and humor marked much of their work. It could be powerful, it could be painful, but through it all ran a theme of joy and fun.

Around the same time the Newsboys began to make a splash. Their albums and live shows were action-packed, infectious, full of surprises and Aussie-humor. Steve Taylor himself came along to produce and write for the Newsboys, and they released some of the all-time CCM classics like Shine and Breakfast. Where else would you get lyrics like "When you let it shine you will inspire the kind of entire turnaround that'd make a bouncer take ballet - even bouncers who aren't. . .happy"? Or a treatise on the lack of breakfast cereals in hell?

And then, two of the all-time Christian fun-bands took over the scene, in the form of the Orange County Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy. The Supertones brought tight, fast rhythms and rhymes that spoke of happiness and sunshine and joy; they were the epitome of fun in the sun, southern California cool. And Five Iron Frenzy? They took fun (and funny) to a whole new level. Who else could release an epic recording replete with barnyard animals praising Jesus, or a rock opera dedicated to a discussion of the ownership of a pair of pants?

All these bands brought a serious message, all brought glory to Christ and encouragement to the Body, and all were a lot of fun.

But the Supertones and FIF both broke up, the Newsboys are going in different directions, Jacobs Trouble is no more, The Lost Dogs are still recording and touring, but not getting much airplay. Now I turn on the local Christian radio station and hear so much of the same, Mercy Me-ish sound. Not that there's anything wrong with that; Christian radio is still full of bands praising God and taking his message to the masses. It's just that, they're all so serious about it. Where's the fun gone in Christian Music? Where is the laughter, the sly sarcasm, the humor-for-the-sake-of-humor? Have I missed it somewhere? Is there any band that's taken up the mantle from The Supertones and FIF?

Some might make the case that David Crowder is filling that gap, and certainly his zany live shows do carry an element of Fun. But Fun to DCB seems to be more a byproduct than the central theme.

Is it the market? I know the money for CCM is drying up rapidly, but that was half the joy of bands like FIF - they seemed like starving college students out there for the love of playing and touring, and not worrying about making it big.

I can't seem to think of any bands still carrying the torch for "good-clean-fun." If there is such a band out there, please point me in their direction. It seems to me that, especially in these troubling times, the Church ought to prove to the world that we still know how to laugh and play a little.


Anonymous said...

well you fail to understand Danielson. your loss. that's some big fun.

and hey! obviously Suf! there's some more fun for you. "gun control, gun control!"
and your kids think "the welcome wagon" is pretty stinking fun.

fun! fun! fun! i'm having fun right now!


Laura Em said...

Good question. I don't follow Christian music as hard as I did when I was a teen. My friends and I had so much FUN going to see Newsboys, Audio A., FIF, DC Talk concerts...

Kent said...

What about Relient K?

Anonymous said...

I still have a Steve Taylor tape tucked away somewhere. I used to love that tape! (Susan)

shallowfrozenwater said...

i've had many of these same thoughts. in fact i told my wife not so long ago that i'm still trying to give Christian radio a chance to say something to me other than spiritualized "ooo, baby baby" themes.
i LOVED Steve Taylor back in the day but i go deeper into guys who also had social commentary and humour in their tunes, guys like Larry Norman and Mark Heard. i miss both those guys.
perhaps it's just a case of being a "few" older and having some different tastes though.
thanks i enjoyed this and i think i'll come back.