Archives For music

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? That’s the theology of most bands, isn’t it? Live fast, party hard, have fun, and damn the consequences. Insofar as I know, Metallica has never been quite that band; lyrically, at least. This isn’t the glam rock of Motley Crüe, or RATT, but the thrash of angst, anger, and injustice.
I’m not here saying I’m a fan, or that one should listen to Metallica. What I am saying is that, at least in their most recently released single, Hardwired, there’s a theology present. What do I mean?

C.S. Lewis famously wrote of theology of dirty jokes, his thesis being that off-color (especially sexual or scatological) humor makes us uncomfortable precisely because, on some instinctual level, we recognize that we are more than these flesh suits we wear. That we were in fact made for more, for glory. So that our own creatureliness offends us. Granted, one can’t make an entire theology of dirty jokes, but there is one there.

Likewise, with Hardwired, Metallica while delivering a fast-paced, frenetic tune, have hit upon a certain theological truth. Let me put in this way:

If the central tenet of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is “the wages of sin is death,” then Hardwired is a song (whether through composer intent or not) about the most basic fact of human nature:

We’re lost, born in sin.

Please understand that the theology contained herein, as in dirty jokes, is crudely expressed. With that in mind, consider the lyrics below:

In the name of desperation [our condition]

In the name of wretched pain [pain is universal]

In the name of all creation [the creation groans]

Gone insane [who can dispute this?]
We’re so f*cked [our natural state without Christ]

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
On the way to paranoia

On the crooked borderline

On the way to great destroyer [the god of this world]

Doom design
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
Once upon a planet burning

Once upon a flame

Once upon a fear returning

All in vain
Do you feel that hope is fading?

Do you comprehend?

Do you feel it terminating?

In the end
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct

Hardwired to self-destruct
Self-destruct

Self-destruct

Self-destruct

As the Scriptures say, we’re “born in sin and shapen in iniquity,” doomed to die apart from our Creator. By our very nature we are indeed “hardwired to self destruct.”

But…

But, God, knowing our nature, made a way. And that way is Jesus. Only in him can our very nature be rewired.

Be redeemed.

So, as in Macbeth, there is a theology in Hardwired, but it’s only half the story. Yes, indeed the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Which path are you on? The Hardwired one, the broad way? Or the narrow one leading to life?

 

PS You might say I’m reading too  much into a rock song. That’s as may be. C.S Lewis also said,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

When Music Was Fun

randomlychad  —  January 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

Being already grown, and married, I missed the angst-ridden music scene of the 90s. Nirvana was not my thing. To be fair, back in the day I was into Metallica, AC/DC, Scorpions, etc. That was the sound of my rebellion. My angry candy.

But I didn’t always turn to music to give voice to my my inner demons. Rather, sometimes I just wanted to rock. I wanted to have fun. For my money, no one epitomized just how fun rocking out could be than Billy Squier. For a few years, he was then reigning champ of the arena rock scene.

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Who can forget The Stroke? A song not about sex, but rather rockstar egos? Or In the Dark, Everybody Wants You, etc?

The guy knew how to rock, and had fun doing it.

I spent some time this past weekend revisiting some of Billy Squier’s catalog, and I’ve gotta say that it holds up surprisingly well. Besides which, his power ballads helped me power through cleaning my bathroom.

Made the domestic fun. And the songs took me back thirty years to when I was a much younger man. To a time when rocking out didn’t mean having an agenda, a message to peddle. No, Squier’s songs don’t have U2-level depth, don’t address world issues…

But darnit! They’re fun! They are well-crafted, infectious ear candy that exist only to make you feel better. If you have a good time listening to these tunes that’s the point.

So give Billy Squier a listen on one of those new-fangled things you kids are using these days. Pandora, Spotify, or that YouTube I keep hearing about.

(Yes, it’s okay to scratch your head and laugh at the absurdity of Squier’s Rock Me Tonight video).

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Much hash has been made of Jars of Clay abandoning their Evangelical roots. I’m not interested in that debate. The fact of the matter is that we are all called to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

That is what I see (and hear) Jars doing: making their faith their own, refusing to be defined by the convictions others project onto them. How this works in practical terms is that while honoring their past, youthful zeal has evolved into a deeper, more mature faith.

In essence, these are a group of guys who are so secure in their faith that making music about real life–their lives–comes naturally now. They have freed themselves from the expectations of a subculture that wants to keep them in a box called Christian music. As if Christians can’t make music about life, about struggle, conflict, heartache, without name-checking Jesus every few bars.

Last night at the show my wife and I attended, Dan Haseltine said (speaking of Inland), “This is a record that took us twenty years to make. One that we couldn’t have made when we were eighteen, and knew everything.” Meaning that he, and the group, have lived, have struggled, have seen and experienced things over the years. They’ve had victories, suffered losses, had setbacks, have had children, fights with their spouses…

They’ve lived.

And they’re better for it.

Last night’s show was at a smaller venue, so right off the bat you know it’s going to have an intimate feel. (My wife and I, because of my work schedule were late, and missed the first opening act, Kye Kye). What I noticed when Brooke Waggoner (an artist whose work, unfortunately, I wasn’t acquainted with prior to last night) began her set was that Stephen Mason (Jars’ guitarist/bass player/raconteur) was on stage, playing bass for her.

And from where I sat, he looked like he was enjoying himself–just playing for the sheer joy of it.

After Ms. Waggoner’s set, and during the intermission, the members of Jars were onstage setting up their own equipment. No roadies, just them–checking guitars, taping down lines and set lists. Gone was the bombast of, say, the 11th Hour tour. No video screens, no fog machines, no special effects.

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Just four guys (and supporting players) and their instruments.

The set list was a mix of old, and new, tunes. All delivered with passion, and without pretense. These are clearly men who trust one another implicitly (they would have to to still be doing what they do after all these years). I got the sense, based upon the repartee between Dan and Stephen, that these are guys who don’t take themselves seriously at all.

But they do take very seriously what they do, and that’s make great music. Despite being up on the stage, performing, the greatest impression I got from them was that they were both humbled, and honored, to be performing for us.

Among the old standbys, there were: One Thing, Flood (a rousing acoustic rendition), and Faith Like a Child (a crowd favorite, and certainly a highlight). Missing from the back catalog were: Love Song for a Savior, 5 Candles, Unforgetful You.

But they couldn’t play everything spanning their near twenty year career.

New songs included: After the Fight, Loneliness & Alcohol Alcohol, Inland, Fall Asleep, and others.

In all, it was a rousing, energetic, yet intimate, show. Looking forward to see where they go in the future. Of all I’ve said here, perhaps the best summation of the performance (and the highest praise), comes from my wife, Lisa, who said, “They’ve grown.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Do you like Jars of Clay? What’s your favorite song? Have you heard Inland?

As I was driving into work the other day, I put on some U2 and some Coldplay. What’s interesting to me is, despite the intervening decades, the thematic similarities of two very different songs:

With or Without You and

Fix You

The former is of course found on U2’s seminal album, The Joshua Tree; the latter on Coldplay’s X&Y. Musically, and lyrically, they’d ostensibly very different songs, but in my mind (a very crowded place) they’re birds of a feather. (Don’t believe me? Listen to them back-to-back).

What do I mean?

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial, clichéd rock, you know the refrain from U2’s song:

“I can’t live with or without you.” Which to me sounds like nothing so much as codependence. (“And you give, and you give, and you give yourself away…”)

So what does one do when one “can’t live with or without you?” Why one will try to “fix you”:

“Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you”

It’s all a very nice sounding sentiment–until you think about it. What lights? And that bit about bones is rather creepy–I mean I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my bones lit up like a funeral pyre!

I kid of course. It’s that last line that’s most disturbing to me: “I will try to fix you.” Why? When you can’t even get your own life straight? This is the last desperate, yet ongoing, act of codependency:

When I can’t live with–or without–you, I will try to fix you. Lather, rinse repeatedly, ad infininitum dominoes-for-biscuits. I’m serious. I’ve seen the dysfunction. I’ve been a people-pleaser. I know.

I’m not saying these are bad songs–quite the reverse, actually–they’re insanely well-crafted, seminal songs–yet I wonder how often we take the time to think through the ideological implications of our pop cultural phenomenons? I say this half in jest, but husbands, and wives, why don’t you just try to “fix” your respective spouses, ok? Report back to me when you’re done (or done in).

The fact is: what sounds nice in a song sometimes has very little practical application in the arena of life. Coldplay’s guiding “lights” offer scant more than cold comfort.

C.S. Lewis addresses similar implications, with regard to education, in his excellent The Abolition of Man. Put another way, in the arena of pop culture, we often strain out the gnats, and swallow camels.

Look no further than, for instance, Katy Perry’s E.T.. It’s got a beat, and you can dance to it: but when is it ever OK to be a victim? Let me be blunt: this always tolerating the status quo because we can’t live with, or without someone–or something–this trying to fix, or be fixed, by someone–or something–often leads us a place where we are willing victims, willingly victimized for the sake of a fix.

Yet we can’t even fix ourselves–let alone another person. Heck, even God doesn’t step in–unless we invite him. (Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in…”).

Instead of “fix you,” I humbly submit the cry (to God–not a spouse, friend, significant other–to God) should be simply “Fix me.”

What do you think? Am I reading too much into these songs? Let me know in the comments.