Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

This past weekend I was able to sit down and watch a documentary that had piqued my interest a long time back. Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music is a film that focuses on the Christian Music scene and industry, specifically through the eyes of Christian rock/alternative bands and their fans at Cornerstone Festival.

I have had a long relationship with Christian rock and music. I was very active in my Church youth group from late Jr High through most of high school. I had been on numerous youth group retreats where only Christian music was allowed. This was right about the time that Tooth and Nail Records had started up, so I had some interesting rock options that were just starting to expand the idea of what Christian music was. Bands like Starflyer 59 and MXPX got their start on Tooth and Nail. Still, I remember trying to pass off U2, REM, and for some reason Queensryche as "Christian" music. Over the past ten to fifteen years since that time, Christian music has become quite the industry. And Cornerstone festival has everything from Christian thrash metal, progressive rock, techno, to hip-hop. Everything is represented.

In this documentary you see many artists talk about how conflicted they are about the Christian music scene in general. Many discuss how it is difficult it is to achieve credibilty as a band when their label pushes them as a Christian (insert bands name with mainstream success here). Some talk of how they have avoided Christian labels for this very reason. Some talk about not having a problem with being labeled as a Christian musician. Some would rather be labeled as a Christian who happens to be in a band. Some feel a responsibity towards the kids to play intesting music for them that they didn't see in the Christian music scene as they grew up. Critics from outside the scene are interviewed and given a say on the artistic merit of the music. So are some name producers siuch as Steve Albini.

The film certainly raises a ton of questions and if watched in a group is sure to provoke discussion afterwards. If you hate the industry so much why are you part of it still? Why do I feel strange when a praise and worship song breaks out in the middle of a rock concert? Do Christian musicians have a responsibility to adress faith directly or indirectly in their lyrics and music? Is the scene itself something that God would be pleased with? Or is it instead just preaching to the choir/converted?

The film's presentation itself seems amataurish at times and I am unsure I agree with Jeff Gibbs assesment that it looks and sounds great. But this is overshadowed by the fair portrayal of the musicians. And it should be stated that the filmakers did create what seemed to be an trustworthy rapport with their subjects. You could tell that the musicians had struggled with many of these issues on their own and just wanted a sounding board to discuss them. And while, you may not come away from the movie with any definitive answers to the questions, and probably actually with even more follow up questions, thats not entirely a bad thing. The film at the very least provokes thought and discussion. For that the filmakers and the artists they profile, should be commended.


Jim said...

I'd be interested in seeing this documentary, if only to compare what's happening in the Christian music scene to the cottage industry that seems to be rising around music with Jewish roots (e.g., Matisyahu, Y-Love, and the artists on labels like JDub).

scot said...

I have been meaning to check out more stuff on the J-Dub label.

I have a total love/hate relationship with the Christian music scene. I probably would need to a few beers and a good 2 hours to chronicle a whole time line of my relationship to it. At once their is total respect and admiration for those who are genuine in their pursuits and who really feel a responsibility towards putting a decent product out theeir for kids, especially given the crap that most of us had as options when we were younger and forced to listen to that by our parents. And then there is hate for the industry as a whole and how it promotes themselves, and their bands.

And then their is the fact that when one grows older sometimes, one sees different aspects of faith and life, which are never covered in regulated christian music, which in part is what makes it for the kids.

And then there is the on the cusp artists like Danielson Famile or Pedro the Lion, who started out at a Christian label before moving on.

Th documentary itself was filmed, I think, 3-4 years ago, but of those bands are still around.

I could really talk about this stuff forever.

nico said...

Wow. I need to see that movie. I've been to Cornerstone twice. Once in high school and once on a road trip a few weeks after I graduated college.

I've seen some amazing music there, stuff that even a lot of non-Christians get into (stuff like Woven Hand.)

It's definately a bizarre festival, but I've had a good time both times I went.

scot said...

add it to yo netflix queue, brother!

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