Music


Despite growing up with Michael Jackson on the radio I’ve never really been a big fan. The guy had the mix of freak and genius on a total lock like no one else. Maybe it was all the slightly over weight kids rocking their parachute pants and faux leather jackets with 312 zippers, or the fact that Tito is just a way cooler name than Michael. Either way, it just never worked for me.

Listening to Trance Around The World episode 331 featured a guest mix by Jerome Isma-Ae. He dropped a remix of Beat It in a song called ‘Flashing Lights’ that is really really good. Check it:

In the same TATW mix they played a track called Sanctuary by Gareth Emery featuring vocals by Lucy Saunders. I heard this song while on a bike ride and the combination of the setting (an english country road) and the lyrics (see below) made this a real song of worship for me.
escape the shadows that were haunting me
…….flesh and bone
In the circle where we know we’re free
This is the place that we call home.

When there is no where left to run,
run with me
Let the moment be a…. century

When it’s all that you’ve become
Set it free
let this moment be a … sanctuary.

I watched the video on Youtube also, which has some very interesting spiritual imagery, including the subject of the video being offered and apple by a woman, who then takes a bite out of it.

I find more and more lately that it is songs by secular music artists that describe their search for spiritual depth, knowledge, understanding and experience that speak more to me and my desire for intimacy with Christ. In this case, thank you Gareth Emery for helping me to experience the Sanctuary that is Christ.

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I will admit to in the past being somewhat a fan of Robbie Williams. My appreciation of Robbie and his music was also without knowledge of his previous affiliation with ‘Take That’…whoops. Songs like ‘Let Me Entertain You’ and ‘Jesus In A Camper Van’ just had an energy and attitude and spiritual curosity that at the time that I could appreciate.

In the last month, Mr. Williams has again burst onto the scene here inrobbie_williams-bodies-300x300 the UK with his new single ‘Bodies’ (even showcasing it on the UK hit show ‘The X Factor’ and I can say with certainty that there is very little appreciation for his effort from me this time around. Lyrically, Mr. Williams again ventures into the spiritual in a very ambigious but curious way, leaving the listener wondering and bit confused about what Robbie actually things about Christ’s death: do you think he died for you and me Robbie? Make up your mind on what you think. But it’s not the lyrics or the sound that makes my stomach turn with this song…it’s Robbie himself. Watch the video and see if you see the same thing….

1) You think wearing that motorcycle helmet and popping a wheelie on a dirt bike makes you a badass? Huh? (1:00 in the video)
2) At the 3:00 minute mark you sing standing on the wing of a plane, how do you spell cliche? and you include the lyric ‘We all just want to look good naked’ and at this point in the video you lift your arm in the air and we see your stomach and I vomit into my mouth.
3) 3:19…you rip off Jay-Z with the played out ‘wipe the dust off my shoulder move’? Huh?
4) The dance moves you employ, particularily at 3:25, 3:39, and 3:47 should never ever be done in public…only ever in front of your bathroom mirror…and only before a shower, because after those horrid dance moves you need a shower…filthy.
5) Your little finger wag at 3:53 should only be used by the viewer of this video to chastise you for making such a pathetic video for a very mediocre song.

drumsAs for a song I love…Let’s hear it for Drums of Death aka Colin and the new song ‘Got Yr Thing’. While the slightly morbid and childish face paint isn’t my thing…the song is. Check it:

The beats have an old skool intensity that makes me want to turn it up and jump up and down. It’s also electro without the polish, without the shine…definitely has a bit of a grimey feel to it that is a bit infectious.

You can’t turn on the radio in London right now and not hear about Orange’s (a UK mobile/cell phone company) volunteerism program called Orange Rockcorps. Their bigorange tag line for the promotion is ‘Give, Get Given.’ The idea is you give 4 hours of your time, volunteering and serving on a designated community project and in return are given a ticket to a gig at The Royal Albert Hall in London. The catch? You can’t buy tickets to the gig and you don’t find out who is playing the gig until after you’ve earned the ticket and right before the show.

Music is big big business…especially in London. The music and club scene operate at incomprehensible levels…you would never run out of gigs to go and see in this city.
This is just a smattering of the line-up around the city in the next week: 22/08: New Found Glory, 22/08: Steve Lawler (DJ),25/08: The Offspring, 25/08: Wilco…Freakin WILCO!!!, 26/08: LadyHawke…all kinds of music by all kinds of artists and this is the line-up during the massive global festival season where anyone who is anyone is playing one of the bazillion festivals all over the planet. So when Orange rolls out a ‘huge gig’ at an amazing venue and it’s all super secret…who wouldn’t want a ticket, especially if your a cheap/poor student in London? Last year the gig involved Busta Rhymes, Guillemots, John Legend, Feeder and more artists.

My first thought is Orange sounds like they’re doing a pretty cool thing. Fully sponsoring what sounds like a sick gig and in doing so also sponsoring over 50 local projects and increasing volunteerism in the community. The press on this project also seems to pretty upbeat and positive.

Perhaps I’m overly cynical but is this really as good as it seems? Sure loads of work gets done on worthwhile projects…sure loads of people get involved…sure loads of people enjoy a great gig, an exclusive gig (even better, right?). I’d be really interested to find out just how many of these ‘volunteers’ continue doing volunteer work without receiving a gig ticket.

I guess I just don’t see it as true ‘volunteerism’ if you do it to get avolunteering ‘reward’: in this case a free ticket to an exclusive gig. But seriously, we live in a world where you are rewarded for good behavior, good grades, for being a good person. As a youth minister, I’ve been in too many churches and given too many talks to kids where we communicate that if they ‘live right’, make ‘wise decisions’ and ‘love Jesus’ they will be ‘blessed’, He will ‘answer their prayers’ or ‘go to heaven’…when we do mission trips, or take kids to homeless shelters we even ask kids ‘how they felt serving others?’ or talk about how ‘rewarding’ volunteering is. But doesn’t talk of ‘reward’ or ‘what you get out of it’ defeat the purpose of volunteering? Isn’t it the same with living a life for Christ? Shouldn’t we be living it as if there wasn’t a ‘reward’ or upside or benefits for us simply because of who He is? If Christ is as compelling as we say he is, we should live relentlessly, passionately and freely for Him as if there was nothing in it for us…simply because we know He is true.

Ok, back to the Orange Rockcorps. It’s a sliding scale right? This is the first step, from a secular vantage point, of creating a generation of young people who are passionate about volunteering, making a difference in their communities and serving others. If this gets even a hand full of people onto the next step I suppose that’s a good thing. I suppose I’m just not content with the ‘what’s in it for me mentality’ and tired of it seeping into our theology and spirituality. I’m also not advocating a sense ‘obligation’ for Christian living either…that will only lead to a dark and angry place. But what happens if we get addicted to the carrot? Everytime we volunteer or ‘live for Christ’ we need a bigger and bigger carrot in order to ‘reach the next level’? This will only lead to a false sense of intimacy with God and volunteering for a reward will only create a false sense of commitment to one’s community and to those we are in community with.

I’m always diggin for new music. Like Cake sang in ‘Rock n Roll Lifestyle’ way back in the day I have to have ‘the tshirt to prove that you heard of them first’. Good music always seems to sound better when no one else seems to be listening to it.

Moving to the UK has opened some new doors musically. Vinyl stores are a joy to wander through…and tomorrow I’m headed to Rough Trade…one of best ones.

But lately, what’s been playing on my ipod and my shuffle (on bike rides) is Mat Kearney’s new album ‘City of Black and White’. mat-kearney-city-of-black-whiteIts been a few years since his last and it seems to me to be well worth the wait.

The sound seems to be pretty well produced…maybe a little too good. There isn’t any tracks where he raps, which were my favorite on the last album, which is disappointing. But lyrically, I find his lyrics seem to be trying to follow the path Bono has been blazing. The lyrics seem to have mutiple layers that have cultural cache and real spiritual symbolism.

The album starts with “All I Have”.
In the first verse he sings,
“Tired of the same song everyone’s singing
Rather be lost with you instead”
This line is one of those that could be to a girl, but could be something more.

Later in the song he sings:
Oh I still trying to do my hardest
Pick us all up from the fall oh
Off the little corner of the darkness
Just a crack the light in the middle of it all

Here Kearney seems to be speaking of our tendancy to embrace grace but then still expend endless energy ‘doing it on our own’ in a world that seems dark all over and light that we long for appears to be only a sliver or a glimmer.

Closer To Love is even more intense lyrically:
She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees
We’re gonna get there soon

And later in the song:
I’m gonna get there soon,
She’s gonna be there too
Cryin’ in her room
Prayin’ Lord, come through
We’re gonna get there soon

[Chorus:]
Oh it’s your light,
Oh it’s your way,
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin’ out now
From so far away…
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

Some critics have railed against Kearney for his song ‘Annie’ that it’s too cliche, because it’s about a girl…”“Annie” is the token weepy ballad. A song named after a girl? That never happens! (Forgive the sarcasm, but I definitely thought Kearney was above this.)” So what…Taylor by Jack Johnson is a rubbish piece of cliche trash as well?

At any rate, while Kearney’s new album seems a little more mainstream than I’d like, lyrically he has a depth that reveals a deep commitment and passion for his faith and a commitment to contextualizing in way that is relevant and challenging to his listeners, fans and critics.

Back in March when they announced the dates for U2’s European 360U2360-Tourlogo-white for their ‘No Line On The Horizon’ album, I wanted to do anything I could to go…and to take my whole family. At that point, only the cost deturred me from buying tickets.

There is no doubt, by reading the reviews of the concerts, Dublin in particular, that I will miss a great show. But judging by the reviews…I’m more than glad I’m not going. It seems to me that U2 are returning to their PopMart tour ways and enjoying too much of a good thing.

Their stage show involves 4 ‘lobster claw’ like contraptions which each cost and stands over 10 stories tall. Each one of the 4 lobster claws holds a stadium size sound system…so 4 sounds system for each stadium. The tour has 3 claw systems that each cost $140 million…each!!! The stage takes an entire week to set up at each venue and takes about 100 semi-trucks to transport.

bonoAP_450x250The financial commitment to such a production is astounding and I’m sure will generate immense profit…but is hard to swallow when out of the other side of Bono’s mouth we constantly hear the message of ‘ending poverty forever’. Not to mention the immense carbon footprint that 100 semi-trucks…3 teams of 100 semi-trucks…must leave. Their three dates in Dublin in the last few weeks also marked the first ever ‘non-sellout crowds’ there since 1980 due to high ticket prices and double-digit unemployment rates in Ireland. Does the world’s most socially conscious band suddenly become socially unconscious when they go on tour?

I’m a big fan of Douglas Coupland, the author. His books are crazy funny and deeply insightful in regards to culture, technology, relationships and the difference between generations.

I’m re-reading Micro-Serfs, which came out in 1994…a loooooooooooooooong time ago. It’s about a group of friends who all happen to work at Microsoft and idolize Bill Gates while they sort out their lives, make meaning for themselves and try not to self-destruct.

microserfs
Because it’s written in 1994 and deeply steeped in the culture at the time it’s a bit like a walk down memory lane. One paragraph in particular got me reminiscing….and wondering…

‘Then we digressed into a discussion of how the word ‘dialing’ is itself such an anachronism-a holdover from rotary phones. ‘Inputting’ would be more true. And who came up with the word ‘pound’ for the ‘#’ symbol. Wouldn’t ‘grid’ have been easier and more fun? I mean ‘pound’?
Or think of how dumb it is too say, ‘I’m going to the record store.’
Technology!’

It made me start wondering what things technology has made obselete that are still apart of our daily vocabulary?….technology advances far faster than language, we invent new words to keep up with technology but often don’t delete old, obsolete, archaic words from our vocabulary, as evidenced by the fact that in 2009 I still say ‘Awesome’ too much.
Whats the over/under on when Blockbuster video rental places no longer exist?

It also made me realize that I miss the experience of going to the ‘record store’ and flipping through vinyl or even CDs. Especially when the other day I was walking down Berwick Ave in Soho in London and realized that is the street where the cover art for ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ by Oasis is from. Said record shop is the red door on the left by the second street light.

morningglory

In a week where Hillsong United’s new album ‘Tear Down The Walls//All Across The Earth’ is currently number 2 on the itunes album chart behind Eminem’s new album ‘Relapse’ my favorite song and worship song may not even be by a Christian band.

A few weeks ago, while listening to XFM, London’s alt-rock/indie radio station of choice, I heard a song that I swear had all the markings of an amazing praise and worship song. Soaring vocals, big full sound, passion, honesty, and invoked the name of the Lord in a reverential and uncontrived way. It became my new favorite song of the moment. The song is ‘Show Me What I’m Looking For’ by Carolina Liar.

Wait, I’m wrong
Should have done better than this
Please, I’ll be strong
I’m finding it hard to resist
So show me what I’m looking for

CHORUS
Save me, I’m lost
Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for youCarolinaLiar-02-big
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord

Don’t let go
I’ve wanted this far too long
Mistakes become regrets
I’ve learned to love abuse
Please show me what I’m looking for

I love this song….Today I cranked the radio, rolled down the windows (it was actually nice out today) and sang along (probably too loudly) and fell in love my Lord all over again.

It does beg the question, ‘Does a band need to be Christian, for a song to be a song of worship?’ My easy answer is ‘No’. But saying no to this question has far reaching implications. Am I ready to consider them? Sometimes. Saying no means that there is a possibility that all things, all people have the ability to bring glory to God without having knowledge articulated through faith in Him. The easy way to agree with this is to say all people are capable of doing this because all are created in His image. But the theological implications of these questions and answers are far more reaching…

I think I’ll just listen to this song again, sing along…and fall in love with my God all over again.

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